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There is Room for You Here

Somewhere along the line, I must have identified myself as a Mormon feminist – for in the 24 hours that have passed since Kate Kelly’s excommunication was announced, I have received multiple messages from various friends, asking, “Are you okay?”

Two things. First, I am not an Ordain Woman supporter. Never was. I don’t agree that women need the priesthood in order to make great strides in having a more meaningful presence in the church. I don’t support some of the methods OW uses to be heard.

Second, no, I am not okay. I am incredibly sad about this turn of events.

There is Room for You Here

While Kelly’s bishop laid out the reasons for excommunication rather well, and I can’t say that I disagree with some of his logic, the question I ask myself is this: “Is the church better with or without Kate Kelly?” and I say it is better with her. She is an intelligent, faith-filled woman who wants to have a discussion about something I personally don’t agree with but believe she has every right to ask about. Her methods might not have been what I would have chosen, but the issues she is bringing up in regards to equality are important. There has not been nearly enough dialogue going on about ways women can be more involved in the church.

In my opinion, there is so much talent and leadership that is not able to reach its full potential in the current policies and procedures of the church. Note I did not say in the doctrine of the church — but in the policies and procedures of the church. There are things that can and should change. We have discussed many of them here before.

Since disciplinary action against Kelly and John Dehlin was announced, I’ve had the words of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s October 2013 conference talk running through my mind. This talk is often referred to as the “Doubt Your Doubts” talk, although its official title is “Come, Join With Us.” Uchtdorf speaks at length about an invitation to come, join with us, despite our warts and our challenges, despite our sins and our differences. True, he tells us to doubt our doubts, but that is such a small part of his overall message. I think it’s safe to say that everyone I’ve ever known who has had doubts has doubted them, studied them, prayed and pondered and struggled over them. I would invite you to re-watch or re-read his talk and listen for all the many ways people might struggle, and an invitation to all to find a place in the church.

I want to quote just a few phrases from his talk. These are things that have stuck with me and continue to come to my mind as I hear this sad news about Kate Kelly’s excommunication.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

We respect those who honestly search for truth. Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. There have been some things said and done that would cause people to question. My friends, there is yet a place for you here. Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result. We need your unique talents and perspectives. The church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted…if these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this church. Come, join with us. If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action, if you are looking for a place of belonging, come join with us. If you are tempted to give up, stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.

I think we do a fabulous job in the church of reaching out to the widow, the poor, the investigator who is struggling with the Word of Wisdom, the single mom, the sick and afflicted. It is much harder to reach out to the doubter, the questioner, the activist, the person on the fringe because of their choices or their lifestyle.

I believe the church of the future will be much more accepting of these kind of people, but it is going to take some very painful conversations in order to get there. I am sorry that Kate Kelly is a casualty in this. I hope that someday she will again feel like there is a place for her here and come join with us again. We are stronger with her than without her.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • carboncopy June 24, 2014, 9:21 pm

    I needed to hear this, Angie. I’ve heard so many hateful things today that it makes me want to join OW just to defend them!

  • Amber June 25, 2014, 4:07 am

    I agree, instead of just excommunicating Kelly, we need to have a conversation about what is the underlying cause that these women feel being ordained would solve, and why do these women feel marginalized? Then maybe we could come up with some solutions that actually make it better for everyone. Plus, the issues don’t just go away by exing the leader. But I am hopeful that after some painful lessons and discussions, the church will be a better place.

  • Amy Lockhart June 25, 2014, 6:16 am

    Thank you for this Angie 🙂

  • Angie Gardner June 25, 2014, 9:09 am

    Overnight, I’ve been wondering why I feel so sad about this when on a personal level I disagree with many of Kelly’s tactics. I have boiled it down to three things:
    1. I hate that excommunication is even a thing. Granted, in some cases it may be necessary, but I think those cases should be very rare. Not knowing all of the inside goings-on of Kelly’s excommunication it’s hard to say if this was one of those rare justified cases, but in general I look at excommunication the way I would a difficult parenting dilemma. As a parent, if my child has done wrong, serious wrong, would my response be to remove them from the family as an act of love? Or would it be to attempt to counsel with them, hear them, love them, set boundaries, but tell them how much they are wanted and needed in our family? I would hope that it would be the latter. I can’t imagine a scenario ever where divorcing a child from my family would be better than working through it the best we can. It is hard for me to see excommunication as an act of love. It seems like an archaic, very public, way to shame someone into doing what we ask or to be cut off. It doesn’t feel like the kind of love I would give my child as correction and bottom line it just does not feel right. When I think and read about Christ, I find many examples where he was firm and gave correction. I find no examples where he excommunicated anyone.
    2. I feel that this whole situation could have been avoided had the parties involved handled it better. I am speaking of both Kelly and the church. Part of the issue is that Kelly was frankly honest in what she wanted. She wants women to be ordained. The name of her group indicates a very clear message of what she wanted. It’s very bold. The brethren’s hackles are raised and they refuse to listen to anything she says (a lot of which is really, really good and necessary conversation to have!) because she is up front about it. She requested meetings with them and was denied, when I believe it would have diffused the situation greatly if a sincere meeting would have taken place where church leaders really listened and then explained the things the church is doing to improve the status of women in the church. That may or may include praying about whether a change in gender-based ordination is in order, but we’ll never know because the conversation never happened. For all we know, President Monson DOES pray about this and DOES get a firm no, but press releases coming from paid church PR people are not the same as a high-level leader sitting down and having a conversation with a vocal, but sincere, questioner. This is not negotiating with terrorists. Kate Kelly and others are reasonable people with sincere questions. They are following the scriptural pattern to ask, inquire, seek and feel that they are led by the spirit in doing so – but the only response they get is from PR or from a conference talk that addresses the issue without really understanding the question. Lest you say that the church leaders don’t have time to sit down for an hour with everyone, I would say that they HAVE had conversations with women, but only with women who agree with them. They have also had conversations with the LGBT community and other groups who disagree, so that both sides can lay out their differences in a kind but open manner. Conversations should have happened that did not, and that is unfortunate because I think there is quite a bit of misunderstanding here that could have been cleared up.
    3. The disciplinary process being different for women than for priesthood holders is problematic. Kelly served a mission and married in the temple just as her husband did, but if he were to raise these questions instead of her, he would have a council of 15 to discuss his fate, including several who would be assigned to see that his side was represented. His fate would be determined by a stake president after counseling with these 15. Her fate is decided by a bishop after counseling with 2 others. Compare the wisdom of 15 men to 3 men. Compare the experience of a stake president to the experience of a bishop, or the experience of 12 high council members and 2 stake presidency counselors to 2 bishopric counselors. Perhaps this larger, more experienced group would be able to see nuances there that a smaller, less experienced group would not. My husband is a bishop. I think he is pretty wise and understanding. But I would think that a decision like this would be extremely difficult to make with only 2 others to help him see what he needs to see and understand what he needs to understand to make the right decision. I believe the process should be the same for everyone facing church discipline. Female covenants being severed is just as significant as male covenants being severed. They should have equal consideration.

    In the end, I think that this action really discourages an open dialogue about women’s issues in the church, and that concerns me as someone who is faithful but sees a great need for change in some of our policies and procedures in regards to women.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 25, 2014, 8:41 am

    Angie, thank you for this thoughtful post. I’ve sincerely been appalled at — not the disagreement — downright hate coming from those who are claiming the “righteous” position. What can they be thinking?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…No Squeegee, No Wipe, Self Sheeting, Streak Free Window CleanerMy Profile

  • Paul June 25, 2014, 11:15 am

    Angie, I enjoyed your piece, and I share your sadness in some ways. My only concern is that your piece pre-supposes that these discussions have not taken place at any level. Indeed we do not know, as you say. We will never know what private counsel Sister Kelly received from her bishop or her stake president or others along the way.

    But Sister Kelly is not without fault. She did make clear what she wants. But she did it in a way that could predictably lead to the end which it did. It’s hard to imagine any other outcome, in fact. And just as she was very public in her demands the church has been very public (including an address by an apostle at the last general conference) in its response.

    As for the process for excommunication, you’ve taken appropriate care to be precise in your analysis that a Melchizedek priesthood holder will have his disciplinary council with a high council and the stake presidency while a sister will have hers with the bishop and his counselors. It’s important to note that this is the case only when excommunication is on the table as a potential outcome. And a bishop is instructed not to enter into such a council without first advising and receiving counsel from the stake president.

    In the end, however, it is the presiding officer of these councils who is responsible for receiving revelation regarding the outcome. Other members may offer insight. But in the end, the presiding authority petitions the Lord for the decision, and other members of the council are asked to ratify the outcome.

    It’s an interesting question whether the church is better or worse with one or another member present or not. I have to think about that more. Is the goodness of the church dependent upon the goodness of its members? I think it’s clear at a local level that the “quality” of a ward or branch can really be influenced by who shows up each week, how loving they are, how willing to serve, how well they speak and teach and lead and love.

    Is the quality of The Church the same as the sum of the value of the wards and branches? I think not. The value of The Church lies in it’s ability to provide the saving ordinances of the gospel. Of course every soul is valuable to the Lord. And Sister Kelly’s is valuable too. And so is Brother Dehlin’s. And so is mine and yours. But the power of The Church radiates from The Son to His Church in my view. It is through those ordinances that the power of godliness is made manifest unto men and women.

    I still have quite a bit of thinking to do about this idea of the goodness of The Church.

    I am saddened by our people’s difficulty in having a civil discussion in which good people may disagree. I’m saddened by strident claims of rightness that masquerade as claims of righteousness. I’m saddened that the discussion and its fallout may be a stumbling block for some. I’m saddened that the opportunity for private renewal and redemption becomes public and profane.

    I am, however, not sad at your careful thoughtful analysis. As uncomfortable as it is for me to think about some of these things, I appreciate your nudging me to do so.

  • Angie Gardner June 25, 2014, 11:54 am

    Thank you Paul for your thoughtful comments. I have a great amount of respect for you both online and in real life 🙂

    I completely agree with your points about Kelly and this being a foreseeable outcome. I only have what she has stated to go by, but she claims she made her local leaders aware of her actions along the way and they never questioned her about it until December of last year. At that point, she had informal discipline imposed and indicated that she would not step down from OW. She also claims she told them at that point that she would be leaving the state in 5 months to move temporarily to Utah and then to Africa. Part of my concern is that they didn’t address formal discipline before she left, as it seems they had ample opportunity to do so when she told them she would not step down and that she would be in the area for 5 more months.

    Your points are taken regarding ward/stake disciplinary councils, but I still wish the process was the same for everyone. Would much prefer an endowed/unendowed qualifier rather than one based on gender via MP holder/non-MP holder.

    Regarding public response by the church, that has all been through church PR with the exception of conference talks, which did address women and the priesthood but not really the questions that were being asked by Kelly. I think there was some misunderstanding that could have been cleared up with honest dialogue between OW leaders and general church leaders. Before December, Kelly says she formally asked for 5 meetings with general leadership and was always denied, and up to that point had not even been invited to discuss her views with her bishop or stake president, even though she was keeping them informed of actions she was taking. My feeling is that while I don’t agree with her stance on things, the situation could have been greatly different had her bishop engaged her right away or had general leadership taken an hour to sit with her the way they did with other women (who clearly are toeing the line more than Kelly). Again, I don’t agree with her on many things and I certainly don’t follow some of the methods she uses, but I do think that some of the questions she asks are very important, and it would have been in the best interest of everyone to truly address them.

    Goodness in the church, yes something to contemplate. Elder Uchtdorf’s words really spoke to me here. I liken it to different wards I’ve lived in. In some wards, things are very conservative and everyone pretty much flows along in their middle class lives with not too many differences. Then you get exciting wards such as our previous ward, filled with the less active, the rebels, the liberal, the sinner, the welfare needs, and you find that there are a whole lot of headaches and a whole lot of blessings too. We had some really difficult situations in our former ward, including excommunications, affairs, and a lot of very lukewarm people. But in their own way, everyone contributed and made things stronger. We might not have wanted my friend who was openly doubting to be the Relief Society president, but she made a fabulous ward choir director and her contributions were valued and accepted there. In our current ward, I think there is a good mix. Certainly there are great needs and many differences, and also a rather large chunk of our ward who probably don’t even know the bloggernacle exists :). I love all parts.

    I have a special place in my heart I guess for those who question. I come from a family where both parents were inactive until I was born. Most of my extended family are non-members or less active. Most drink, most smoke, many dress immodestly, most curse, some break the law, some speak out against the church, but I see places for all of them in my life and in the church should they choose it. I think we do a great job of welcoming many people who are different as we try to help them assimilate (somewhat tongue in cheek, but if we are being really honest we do expect new members to make these changes in order to “fit in” with us). We seem willing to accept the differences for awhile while people learn to be Mormon, but if we ARE Mormon and returned missionaries and married in the temple and should “know better” and THEN have questions, doubts, or concerns it is much less accepted. That saddens me, because there are some very hard things to reconcile in the church and the only way those are going to be addressed is through open and honest discussion by faithful people. But it’s often shut down.

    Some of my own questions did not come until I was well into my 30s, after having served a mission, married in the temple, and served in the church for many years. I am working through them, but some of them are extremely difficult (cough cough Joseph Smith polygamy/polyandry) for me to reconcile. I appreciate forums in which history can be discussed and spoken about without the conversation being shut down. I think there is a great need in the church for the honest questioner to have a place to go. The church is starting to make some strides here and for that I am grateful. The question is how many will we lose to excommunication, resignation, or simply inactivity before there is a process that works for people.

    As a total aside, you are probably wondering how my husband and I possibly ended up together. 🙂 He is much less rebellious than I am. It baffles me too. 🙂

  • Angie Gardner June 25, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Alison, the hateful speech has been so discouraging.

    I was at Mountain Meadows with my mom and sister when my sister saw on her phone that Kelly was excommunicated. (Irony?) My mom said good, she got what she deserved.

    Good? I don’t think losing a church member for whatever reason is ever “good”. It is sad, agree with the decision or not, whether it is deserved or not.

  • Layne June 25, 2014, 12:40 pm

    A beautiful analysis — thank you for your effort at reconciling so many difficult perspectives.

    There are different ways to look at excommunication. First, it is a commandment to the Elders of the Church to blot out the names from the records of the Church for those who are unrepentant of their sins (having been confronted with their sins). While the details of the process are not discussed, it was unfortunately a regular occurrence as the Book of Mormon peoples entered into the apostasy phase of their social cycle. Excommunication is neither a policy nor a procedure any more than Baptism is.

    Excommunication is in fact an act of mercy when considered from a point of view of being accountable for the keeping of covenants. The Handbook of Instruction makes it very clear that there is a gradation of accountability based on life/church/leadership experience and the levels of covenants one has made relative to that experience. A Latter-day Saint who has made temple covenants and has enough life/church experience to really understand the import of those covenants, is under a terrible burden of accountability when living in unrepented-of sin. Excommunication, the “blotting out” process, removes the burden of such accountability by removing the accountability itself – it is as if the covenants were never made in the first place. And that accountability is gone until the person so judged witnesses again to the Church they have fully repented of their sins, and they are able to be made whole again.

    While archaic in the sense of being an ancient process, the modern church does not use excommunication as a weapon or a tool to enforce compliance through fear, intimidation or shame. In only the rarest of circumstances is excommunication discussed publicly by Church leaders (only once do I know of personally – to protect a small community from a proven sexual predator).

    The entire point of excommunication is to help the individual move to a spiritual point where they are once again capable of living up to their covenants. The only evidence I have is my own anecdotal experience. In 25+ years of training at every level of the Priesthood outside of the General councils of the Church, Church discipline has always been taught as a process of reconciliation and love, support and encouragement. Holders of the Priesthood have always been strongly counseled to not use this process as a method of retribution or punishment.

    Your comparison to how you raise a wayward child is perfect. In this case the Church is in a position to do what you cannot do as a mother. As an institution, as the keeper of sacred ordinances, the Church is in effect saying to the unrepentant sinner… when you are ready to come back you can be reborn. You will be given a truly clean slate, unblemished, and we can all start anew. Your sins are forgotten. No one is being thrown away or divorced from the family. Come. Be with us. Worship with us. Serve in ways you are able. Make a difference.

    And in that spirit I condemn those who speak evil of Ms. Kelly. I hope we can all follow the example of the Prophet Joseph in how he welcomed back those who had sinned against him. With open arms and tears of joy. Any of us who cast stones at her find in ourselves the greater sin.

  • Angie Gardner June 25, 2014, 1:30 pm

    Thank you Layne for your civil analysis. I suppose I had never considered excommunication as an act of mercy. My thinking has always been that when we make the covenants, we are accountable and nothing, even excommunication, can take away that accountability because you can’t take away the knowledge that you have gained through your covenant making (if that makes sense?). Not sure how to word that. This is something I will have to think more about.

    In the cases I’ve been personally acquainted with, it does *feel* more punitive than merciful, overall. Perhaps that is because of the public nature of it. You can’t take the Sacrament, raise your hand to sustain church action, wear garments, speak or pray in church – all things that your fellow church members will notice. While it isn’t their place to judge the reasons, they can make fair assumptions that something is not right in your church life. And certainly, this is talked about and opined on by others. It’s not a personal repentance process when so many know and talk about it.

    It’s a loss, any way you look at it. Your covenants are undone. You are no longer sealed. You are no longer “with” us but now “outside” us. While you can attend, you cannot participate. Participation is, in my opinion, a major part of the healing and repentance process. To be cut off from what you have known, loved, and believed your whole life does not seem merciful to me.

    I do understand the need to preserve the integrity of the church and protect it from those who are teaching false doctrine or engaging in immoral practices. It does seem to me the process could be much more equitable (as mentioned above, such as endowed/unendowed vs. MP holder/non-MP holder) and private. I know it is *supposed* to be private, but I know from experience that men on these councils do talk sometimes. Gossip gets spread. Even if it stays private as far as the details, anyone can see the results based on the very public signs. I find that shaming. I don’t shame my children and I don’t find it healing or merciful when others are shamed in the name of repentance.

    Ally Isom gave her spiel about the root of “discipline” being “disciple”, i.e. it’s a loving process, a “court of love.” But the root of excommunication is “out of communion”. I don’t personally find it merciful or uplifting to stop communing with someone. It’s shunning and shaming, which never builds anyone up. It might stop a behavior because people want to avoid the shaming but it does not change the heart.

    Again, every case is different and I’m sure there are cases where it might be merciful to free someone of their covenant obligations. I believe they will still be accountable for their actions whether in the church or out. If I were to resign my membership and then think “Yay, I’m free from my membership. I can now do whatever I want and I’m not accountable” that would just be wrong. In Kelly’s case, if her views are wrong in the eyes of God, they will still be wrong as a nonmember. God won’t forget that she made covenants just because they’ve been erased by the church.

  • Layne June 25, 2014, 3:42 pm

    I hope you feel this is a worthwhile discussion… because I do.

    Some clarifying responses:

    First regarding endowed/un-endowed vs MP/non-MP. I understand why you say what you are saying, and it certainly makes sense.

    However, I hope to clarify that this is not a matter of policy, but of doctrines pertaining to Priesthood governance. The Bishop does not hold Melchizedek priesthood keys. If excommunication is a possible outcome of a disciplinary council, he does not have the authority to make such a decision by the function of the keys he holds. Only the Stake President has the authority to make that decision. If a MP holder’s behaviors do not warrant excommunication then a Bishop can be authorized to hold a disciplinary council on his behalf. All of which is done under the direction of the Stake President. Bishops don’t get to hold disciplinary councils whenever they want for whatever reasons they want. At least they aren’t supposed to. (On a side note, women are sometimes referred to a Stake Council, but usually only when the Bishop needs to recuse himself because of a personal relationship.)

    I wish I could reassure you, and those who share your concerns, Stake Councils are not a matter of relative importance… meaning that men get them because they are more important than women. It is purely a function of Priesthood keys.

    Regarding whether God remembers our sins… there are two meanings of “remember.” When He says regarding our true repentance of sin, “I will remember them no more” what he’s really saying is (roughly) “I will no longer hold you accountable for them.” Of course there is no physical amnesia. When the Church “blots out” someone’s name, that is not just an earthly action of the Church, assuming we really believe that these men are indeed authorized to seal on earth and in heaven. My reading of many of the references to excommunication in the scriptures suggest this was not merely a record-keeping function. Rather, the name so erased was also removed from the “book of life” or the “book of the righteous.”

    Perhaps I misspoke above… absolutely we are indeed under condemnation for sins committed while under covenant. But if we have proven ourselves systemically and intentionally unable to live up to our covenants, surely it is an act of mercy to remove the burdens of future sins until we are prepared to fully repent and start over? (And I agree it is not a license to “cut loose.” We would still be held accountable for right and wrong as are all… but we are no longer “covenant accountable.” If I want to return full fellowship, then part of my witness to the Church of my full repentance is my willingness and ability to live a covenant life outside of any restrictions.

    Again as to shaming… I am fully convinced that is not the intent of excommunication. Your observations of the reality is the unfortunate byproduct of the very serious imperfections of the Saints (about which President Uchtdorf spoke – the Different will have to also get past and forgive the judgmentalism of the “Church Lady”). However, Bishops and Stake Presidents don’t get to “not uphold” the laws of the Church just because we as members are judging unrighteous judgment. This is one of the truly hard things about sitting in the “Chair.” I was fully cognizant of my own unrighteousness and yet still had to do my duty. (I reconciled myself to the fact that it is the same for every member… not just Bishops.)

    Perhaps we as a people can continue to grow in grace and forgiveness in welcoming the Different to both the Temple as well as the Chapel.

  • Angie Gardner June 25, 2014, 7:23 pm

    I do think it’s a worthwhile discussion. If we had a lot more discussions like this in the church we’d probably all be in a better place. 🙂

    I am going to have to do some studying on what is doctrine vs. policy vs. procedure vs. practice because it all becomes very fuzzy to me (admittedly). To me, doctrines are eternal and do not change. These are things like faith, repentance, baptism, etc. There are functions of the priesthood that have changed, so to me those are more procedures or policies. A few examples: Women in the early church were authorized to lay on hands and give healing and comfort blessings, the ages of ordination to Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods have changed over the years (in the early days of the church men were ordained as Elders as early as age 15 to serve as full-time missionaries, in 1908 the minimum age for an elder was 21, etc.). In other words, while the priesthood itself is eternal, how the priesthood is administered can and has changed. The most obvious example is blacks being able to be ordained, then not, then again in 1978 they could).

    My point with the endowed/unendowed etc. is that both women and men who have made temple covenants should be held to a higher standard than those who have not. I personally do not think ANYONE should be able to be excommunicated by a bishop. I understand the different responsibilities of the different offices, but what I am saying is that since women don’t hold the priesthood at all, we should add the endowed woman to the stake president realm of responsibility. It’s not about a stake president having more wisdom than a bishop, although that’s part of it (just by virtue of most stake presidents having years of “judgment” experience vs. some bishops very little). To me it’s more about the numbers. In a room of 15, it’s more likely that at least a person or two will have a differing view and express it. In a room of 3, it’s much less likely that there will be differing viewpoints. And while the final decision rests with the stake president or bishop, I certainly hope that they do take into consideration other viewpoints as they prayerfully consider the outcome. If not, why have the council system at all – bishops and SPs could just make the decision autonomously. It concerns me that women have only 3 men contributing to the discussion on their fate, while a MP holder has 15, some of whom are specifically there to make sure his side is fairly represented.

    It is interesting to consider that a bishop can cancel all temple blessings of a female via excommunication, but if she were to divorce and desire a temple sealing that requires First Presidency approval. If it’s your choice to leave that covenant, the First Presidency has to okay (often a long and arduous process), but if it’s the bishop’s choice that can be done in a few minutes.

    I don’t mean to discount the mantel of a bishop. I’m married to one and I’ve seen it. But I also think (no, I KNOW) that they are also very human. I’ve had a few bishops that I really wouldn’t have trusted with a matter of this significance, others I would – but bottom line is that I think if temple blessings are in question, it should require a few more people involved and with more experience in these matters.

    In other words, I don’t want bishops to be able to excommunicate MP holders. I just want endowed women to have the same consideration. Long way of saying that I guess.

  • Naismith June 26, 2014, 6:25 am

    I haven’t personally been exposed to the nastiness that others have reported. Most of my Facebook friends are not LDS and most of those who are LDS, including myself, sit squarely in the middle on this, seeing both sides. (Unlike Sister Kelly’s comment that there are fewer than a handful.)

    I’m a convert, and my first semester at BYU (less than a month after baptism), I started with the second half of Book of Mormon the story of Alma 30 and how one can believe anything but it is a problem when you teach and lead others away. That seemed to make sense, and it was impressed on me even more when we graduated, moved to a state capitol across the country in 1980 during the midst of the ERA debate. I knew lots of pro-ERA Mormons, including a high councilor who was a state legislator. But their church standing was never an issue because they never said the church was wrong, never belittled others as being mindless sheep. It was Sonia Johnson’s action of encouraging people to turn away the missionaries that was problematic.

    So I thought it seemed appropriate that Sister Kelly’s excommunication was for “conduct” and not for questioning or having other ideas.

    And I also regret that important conversations “never took place” because I am not entirely happy with a lot of things about the church. But because OW set a certain agenda, it was a distraction from some other central issues.

    I was dismayed at declaring ordination to be a “need,” because to my ears it sounds like just one more call to treat women the same as men, which I have enough of in my life. Whereas I would like to see the contributions of men and women valued and respected equally. After all, the Creator made us this way, and either there was a reason for it, or the Creator is either stupid or hates women.

    I can understand why the church action started in May, after her actions in April. First, she turned down the request from the church not to take their action to Temple Square. Secondly, if Joanna Brooks’ report of her comments in the park before the march are to be believed, she was incredibly insulting to women who find any value in the church’s teachings on a different role for women.

    Also, I feel like whenever one of us speaks about wanting respect for women but perhaps not through ordination, we are automatically slapped down as being brainwashed, “traditional,” and a persecutor of Sister Kelly.

    I have great sympathy for the pain that she and her family are going through. I just don’t agree that she was right in either her teachings or tactics.

  • Grey Ghost June 26, 2014, 9:51 am

    As usual, I find myself between the fires of hysteria on both sides. Sister Kelly’s supporters continue to inaccurately describe her behavior as “just raising questions,” and her opponents hatefully snarl that “she got what she deserved” (with undertones of “Uppity b***h!”). I find myself caught between the completely irrational and the completely unChristian. Of the two, I’m more comfortable with the irrational; lack of logic and clear thinking merely gives me hives. Lack of charity (in myself or others) is truly frightening.

    Thanks to all of you who have weighed in on the issues surrounding disciplinary councils. The perspective has been helpful.

    Alison, your OP made me bang my head against the wall, because you put your finger on something that’s been bugging me since that Conference, but I haven’t been able to articulate it. I think you’ve summed it up well in saying that some have taken to calling President Uchtdorf’s talk the “Doubt your Doubts” talk, when it should clearly be the “Join with Us” talk. Of all the things he said about love, tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding – of all the insights we could have taken away on how to help ourselves, our family members, our active and less-active brothers and sisters with questions and doubts – of everything in that talk of lasting, healing value – the least was “Doubt your doubts.” The overwhelming message was, “There is room for you.” I taught this talk in EQ a few weeks ago, and still had some guy say that people left the Church because “their testimonies weren’t strong enough.” Was he not listening? I hope to keep teaching that message and repeating it until it sinks in, not only to my quorum but, God willing, more deeply into my own heart.

  • Stacey June 26, 2014, 1:52 pm

    Nice post! I do have a question and a comment.

    You wrote, “There has not been nearly enough dialogue going on about ways women can be more involved in the church.”

    As a fully active woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have to ask – in relation to what? Women in the Church belong to the Relief Society – and we are called upon to do just that – provide Relief. Every week there are service and support assignments for us to fill; visiting teaching sisters to get to know, watch out for and serve, meals and babysitting help, driving sisters to doctor’s and other appt’s, building cleaning assignments, Temple cleaning assignments, Bishop storehouse assignments. If that’s not enough, how about genealogy and then Temple work done by sisters for sisters in which sisters administer the covenants? (Which, by the way, men are not allowed to do.) Women also run the Primary and the Young Women’s programs exclusively in the Church and are also called to teach Sunday School. In what ways would you desire the women in the Church to be more involved? I ‘m not asking facetiously, I really want to know what you mean.

    I have a response to, “It is much harder to reach out to the doubter, the questioner, the activist, the person on the fringe because of their choices or their lifestyle.”

    Having had years and years of discussions with a brother who is actively pursuing a ‘Fundamentalist’ lifestyle and was excommunicated from the Church, I can tell you one HUGE reason why it is much harder to ‘reach out’ to the doubter, the questioner, the activist or the person on the fringe because of their choices or their lifestyle. It boils down to one thing – we can be friendly, we can try to hang with them logically, but when the discussion turns to their dissonance with Church or doctrine in the Church because of (insert the person’s personal idiosyncrasy), the Spirit quickly leaves the discussion. The Holy Ghost is no longer present.

    They often want you to PROVE to them why you believe what you believe – and they have plenty of quotes and ammunition to PROVE their side of it, just like OW. They draw you in to an adversarial position at this point, which you never intended to be in. Even if you disagree with them politely, you are AGAINST them.

    Best way to reach out? Don’t give them a forum for their dissonance. Keep the discussion away from their hot topic and involve them in your life otherwise. In other words, earnestly befriend them and love them for who they are and make it clear that between the two of you, there will be no hashing over your differences.

    It is indeed sad to watch – for you see them struggling against some ‘foe’ they see in the Church, whether it be under the umbrella of ‘women’s inequality’, ‘fundamentalism’, ‘heterosexual doctrines’, or whatever, our hearts go out to these people for their struggles.

    Heaven knows we all have our own.

  • Joseph Murray June 26, 2014, 2:45 pm

    There is good public discourse here… so I will add my thoughts and testimony.

    True, there is room for all of God’s children under the umbrella of his Gospel Plan, but there is also a cost for allowing members to remain in full activity who contradict the fundamentals of God’s ordained plan, and by extension, his Priesthood line of authority. It is through the Priesthood that he organizes his work. His work is everlasting, as is his Priesthood. That Priesthood isn’t for our personal glorification. At the end of the day, it is God’s authority and power, and the men who hold it are but agents, who should use it to bless and we’ve all read the principles that it should be exercised under in D&C 121.

    The Priesthood blesses us all, it encompasses all, and it supports the women as well as the men. Does it make any difference to be an agent of the Priesthood in the manner of our church? Does President Monson take any honor to himself? Did the Savior take any honor to himself? The honor is in following God, who’s Priesthood it is. To me the Priesthood is everlasting. It is the lodestar of life that helps us stay pointed in the right direction and leads us in the straight course home. There is nothing in my mind that therefore raises questions about the genders that bear the Priesthood.

    The question regarding gender and who acts as an agent of the Priesthood, to me is an appendage, or branch, of the more important question… who is the Lord’s prophet on the earth and what is the appointed direction that we are to take in church matters? To me, I must ask God, and gain a testimony of his ordained prophet first.
    I have a testimony that President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth and is the Presiding High Priest who is able to direct the use of those keys. As he remains faithful in his post, we may align with him and we may never go wrong. I am happy to bear my testimony that our Prophet is Thomas S. Monson. The Lord has chosen and prepared him for this and other challenges because of his demonstrated faithfulness in doing what the Lord would do in spite of popular opinion. That is the burden that he has been tasked with. We should therefore be praying for him to receive the direction he needs and the fortitude he needs to fulfill the Lord’s will in this faith promoting or faith destroying topic.

    I am happy to see so many members of the Church who are responding in faith to follow the prophet and the leaders of the church. As Elder Callister said in a recent general conference address, although it was said more in relation the certainty of the restoration, I think there are many points which still apply if correlated with our present siutation… “There will always be some seemingly intellectual crisis looming on the horizon as long as faith is required and our minds are finite, but likewise there will always be the sure and solid doctrines of the Restoration to cling to (i.e. one of those being the Order of the Priesthood), which will provide the rock foundation upon which our testimonies may be built. When many of Christ’s followers turned from Him, He asked His Apostles, “Will ye also go away?” Peter then responded with an answer that should be engraved on every heart: “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:66–68). If someone turns from these restored doctrines, where will he go to learn the true nature of God … (and by extension his Priesthood, etc, etc…)? Yet sorrowfully, on occasion, some are willing to set aside the precious gospel truths restored by Joseph Smith because they get diverted on some historical issue or some scientific hypothesis not central to their exaltation, and in so doing they trade their spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage. They exchange the absolute certainty of the Restoration (Order of the Priesthood that they have subscribed to during their years in the church) for a doubt, and in that process they fall into the trap of losing faith in the many things they do know because of a few things they do not know.

    I hope that more men, and women like Kate Kelly, do not lose faith in the many things they do know because of a few things they do not know. This I believe is why many have focused on the doubting your doubts part of the talk. Yes there is room in the church for all people, but faith cannot exist where doubt and dissension are present. Perhaps, for the sake of those who would become the victim to the many publically unfettered-faith destroying doubts, there is reason for excommunication. And perhaps there is a public as well as a private lesson to be learned also. We are all saddened by the loss of a brother or sister and hope that they will rejoin the throng in full fellowship. However, perhaps were this situation to go left untreated, the continuing outcry may lead others of our brothers and sisters away. It is apparent the Bishop and Priesthood leaders made many efforts to dissuade Sister Kelly from the course she was want to pursue, and look at the number of talks in the recent conference surrounding this issue. I hope we all continue to pray to know which side of the issue we should be on. I would undoubtedly stand behind the decision of this bishop, by extension of the authorized keys of the Priesthood up to our Prophet, and ultimately the Lord, because I have a testimony that he is the Lord’s Prophet. I conclude with this testimony because I know President Monson is the Lord’s Prophet, the only man on the earth who is authorized to direct all the keys of the Priesthood.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 26, 2014, 4:34 pm

    Grey Ghost, just want to clarify that Angie Gardner is the author on this post. 🙂
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Videos of Jesus Christ – More to Life Than NowMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner June 26, 2014, 6:12 pm

    Thank you all for your comments. I’ve skimmed them and will reply more later. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a wonderful visit with my family in Southern Utah. We did a lot of hiking in Zion today and now are awaiting a yummy barbecue. 🙂 More later.

  • Angie Gardner June 27, 2014, 7:48 am

    Naismith – Did you see Alison’s post this morning? Now you can see some of the negativity. Reading that brought up a lot of memories…some of those statements came from my family members. 🙁 I agree with what you said about Kate Kelly. I have never agreed with her tactics nor her platform. However, I do think the church has some responsibility as well in how the situation escalated, and I still don’t like the excommunication process for endowed females being different than MP holders. Thank you for your comments.

    Grey Ghost – Thank you and I agree. Elder Uchtdorf’s talk was so powerful to me that it has come to my mind many, many times since. When my mom taught this in RS, she told me she was teaching the “Doubt Your Doubts” talk. I played dumb and said, “Oh, I don’t remember that one?” Then we had a really nice talk (which is very unusual when speaking with my mom about church stuff :/ ) about the REST of the talk and how much this sentiment is needed in the church. Come, Join With Us. There is Room for you Here. (and doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith…also important but not the central point of his talk).

    Stacey – I’m going to address your questions in a separate post.

    Joseph – I think the difficulty here is that if people don’t speak up, nothing will ever change. And some things do need to change, for they are policies and procedures and practices and not doctrine, and they could be done better. This isn’t really the place to argue what those exact issues are, but they’ve been discussed here and in other places frequently. The church can be a very uncomfortable place for a woman. As a male (I presume by your name) you may not feel that as acutely, but I personally have experienced and have witnessed others experiencing a rather harsh environment towards women who agitate. President Hinckley once said that LDS women aren’t agitating for change. Well, now some are. How they agitate differs and sometimes I hate it as much as you do (again, I do not agree with Kate Kelly’s methods), but how can they agitate at all without being vilified? I get plenty of criticism of my views from my family, who think I’m going to hell any minute. I’m a faithful, temple-going, returned missionary bishop’s wife who has a lot of questions and concerns about women’s place in the church (again, I don’t believe women should be ordained). I see very little room for this agitation without the hate speech coming out from those who want the status quo. Mormon women with feminist leanings are between a rock and a hard place here.

  • Angie Gardner June 27, 2014, 8:16 am

    Stacey –

    “In what ways would you desire the women in the Church to be more involved? I ‘m not asking facetiously, I really want to know what you mean.”

    This has been discussed in other posts, but the examples you gave were all of women serving, and certainly LDS women have many, many opportunities to do so. Service is wonderful and definitely a part of our stewardship as LDS women. LDS men also have many service opportunities, but what they have that we don’t is visibility, voice, leadership, stewardship, decision-making, etc.

    Now, lest the examples start being thrown out about RS, YW, and Primary leaders I will acknowledge that at any given time there are 3 women in the ward with some of these opportunities. There are others who are in counseling roles to these 3 women. However, these leaders do not act autonomously. Any decision on staffing, budget, etc. is directed through male leadership. It was not always this way. Relief Society leaders used to manage their own budgets and address their own staffing issues. Now, they make recommendations to the bishop and he approves or denies the request. Sometimes he suggests or even fills a staffing need without consulting the president. This happened to me several times as Primary president. How much autonomy a female president has depends on her particular bishop. I have seen both sides of it – fabulous bishops who facilitate strong female leadership, and bishops who micro-manage and dictate most of what happens in female-led organizations. The point is that if you are a female leader, you are basically at the mercy of who the bishop is that you are working with. You have no female “higher-up” to appeal to. Female stake leaders are there for training and support – not to override the bishop. Same with female general leaders.

    Even in a ward with a female-friendly bishop, women are greatly under-represented in leadership. There are 3 women on a ward council, none on the PEC (the RS president *can* be invited but isn’t a regular member), none in bishopric meetings. If you have sister missionaries you might have 5 invited to ward council, but this is compared to approximately 10-12 men. Even if you have strong female leadership that speaks up, the vibe in the room is heavily male. And yes, they may be wonderful and enlightened men, but they are still not women and they still don’t see things as a woman might. 🙂

    Those are just a few of my concerns. But as I’ve said, it’s been discussed here and in other places a lot if you care to look into it more.

    I appreciate your comments about why it’s difficult to include those with differing views in the church. This is where it is hard for me, because I don’t see my views as particularly rebellious or heretical, but I do have some serious questions and doubts. I don’t feel like there is a forum for those who want to be active and involved BUT also have some things they really want answers to. It’s hard to ask those questions without either being brushed aside or outright told your heart is not in the right place. An example (which I briefly mentioned above): One of my big issues is with Joseph Smith polygamy/polyandry. After years of studying, praying, reading church resources and non-church resources I just cannot feel right about how this was practiced. And admittedly, my concern with this has made me question many other things about Joseph Smith. You can see how this is problematic for someone who is trying to resolve it all while hearing nearly every Sunday how this is someone to be revered and who is next to Christ in what he has done for mankind. But where can I go to discuss these concerns without either being “put back in my place” or labeled as a dissenter? So mostly, I just sit back and take it all in. I wish there were a place to openly discuss it without getting the labels I get when I speak up. And now, I’m already worried about what saying even that much is going to get me. See what I mean? 🙂

  • Brook June 27, 2014, 12:23 pm


    Where are some non-anti-church places I can go to read more about polygamy during Joseph Smith’s time? I have always wondered about this but have been warned to stay away from inaccurate literature. Please tell me where you found this information if you don’t mind.

    Secondly, in one of your comments, you mentioned that there is a difference between doctrine and policy. I totally agree. However, how can we as members find out what is doctrine and what is policy? How can we know this for ourselves? I am honestly curious.

    Thanks for any help you might offer!

  • arden hofheins June 27, 2014, 3:59 pm

    I too was so sad to hear of her excommunication. There is not a balance in the church. I think women need to a bigger part in the happenings of church. How does one make that happen without fear of being on a list or being excommunicated. Why are men the only judges of what happens to me and are those men truly worthy to make those judgements. The leaders all have their interpretations, opinions…..they all differ from one man to another. I truly do not think Christ would react as we do. As you said excommunication is a serious matter for the very worst of offenses. Kate Kelly did not deserve that. It is my opinion she did not commit apostasy, but what does that matter, I am a woman.

  • Angie Gardner June 27, 2014, 4:43 pm


    I first came across the JS polygamy issue when I bought a book at Deseret Book (I don’t think they sell it anymore, has caused WAY more questions than the church is comfortable with I think) called Mormon Enigma. I picked it up because I am interested in biographies and also women’s issues, and this is a biography of Emma Smith.

    This book rocked my world, literally. I couldn’t put it down, but it disturbed me very much. It concerned me that it described polygamy differently than what I’d heard growing up (what I had heard were things like: was not practiced until Brigham Young although revealed to Joseph Smith, was practiced because there were more women than men, was a way to quickly populate the church, etc.). It bothered me greatly that it was hidden from Emma and/or practiced against her wishes. It concerned me that it started much earlier in the church (i.e. arguably in Kirtland) even though I thought it was a crossing the plains and Utah thing. It concerned me that Joseph Smith married women who were already married to other men, active LDS men in some cases. It bothered me that he married at least a few very young girls (14, 15). It bothered me that many of these women testified later that the relationships were not simply spiritual sealings but also sexual unions. So, a lot of it bothered me, and I started reading/listening. Some of what I read was from the diaries of the polygamous wives of Joseph. I read Todd Compton’s book In Sacred Loneliness which goes through each wife and gives a biography of sorts. I listened to a lot of John Dehlin’s podcasts. I know he’s in church trouble too but I found many of his podcasts to be faith promoting and very helpful to me in understanding it all. When I learned all this starting about 8 years ago I was ready to march out of the church. But John Dehlin more than any other person has helped me to stay, because I think he presents both sides and lets the Spirit and the truth guide. Alison disagrees but that’s okay 🙂 (I’ve heard she’s not a John Dehlin fan).

    I also read Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman, an active (former stake president and current patriarch) member (this is available at Deseret Book) on the advice of a friend. It’s a really tough read and you will learn some things about JS that you wish you’d never known. Tread lightly. Honestly, if I’d known where it would lead me I probably would have never picked up either that or Mormon Enigma, but having said that they are both very well researched and written from an LDS standpoint.

    The essays that the church is putting out are helpful somewhat, although they don’t paint a complete picture. The Joseph Smith papers are another source. So, there are many places, some faithful and some not as much, but as a seeker of truth I’ve found almost everything I’ve heard or read as something that has helped me on my journey. I’m at a place now where I personally stick more to a relationship with God and Christ than anything else. Some days are hard to reconcile it all, and like I said it brought up other concerns with Joseph Smith that I’m still working through.

    One thing I found is that when I had these concerns with church history and leaders, it made it harder for me to accept the workings of the modern church in regard to women. So it all kind of worked hand in hand.

    Again, I’m not saying you should take this same path. In fact, if I could turn back time I’d rather go back to my perhaps less-enlightened but much more comfortable life before I started studying these things. So please don’t take my story as an endorsement that you should do the same. I’d personally start with the church essays and Joseph Smith papers and go from there.

    As for your doctrine vs. policy vs. procedure vs. practice that is a question I wish I had an answer to. I find the lines between them very, very blurred sometimes. The easiest thing for me has been to ask myself this question: Can I find it in the scriptures? If I can, then I consider it doctrine. By scriptures, I would say more Old and New Testaments and Book of Mormon than D & C, because the D & C does contain a lot of procedure, some of which is no longer followed. So, I think of things like baptism, faith, repentance, etc. to be doctrine. Priesthood I personally consider to be doctrine, but the way it is administered has definitely changed over the years so much of that I do not consider doctrine. I don’t necessarily consider it doctrine that women can’t be ordained, I just don’t think they need to be. So, again, it’s fuzzy. But I think the scripture based question is a good place to start.

    One other quick note on that. Some will consider conference talks as scripture. I personally don’t, because some of them also contradict each other. For example. I believe it was Elder McConkie who gave a talk less than 2 years before the ban was lifted on black members, stating that it was doctrine that “the negro” would never have the priesthood. So, I stick with the books of ancient scripture personally. But that’s a call each person has to make I guess.

    And above all, follow the Spirit. This is perhaps why I struggle with polygamy. Of all the things I struggle with, this is the one thing I was never able to get a testimony of after struggling with it and praying about it for years.

  • Brook June 27, 2014, 8:06 pm

    Thank you so much for answering my questions, Angie. I really appreciate your insight. It seems that you and I share several opinions!!


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