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|Who Are We and Why Are We Here|
Jun. 11th, 2014 at 10:58 pm
The news broke today, thanks to massive publicity from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, ABC News, The Deseret News, The Daily Mail in the UK, The San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, and dozens of other news outlets, that Kate Kelly, the leader of Ordain Women, and John Dehlin are being summoned to appear before LDS church disciplinary councils for apostasy.
Let’s not mince words about how this is sad or unwise or disappointing. Let’s be perfectly clear: This is not OK. What’s more, it’s OK to say so. It’s more than OK. Mormons cannot allow this to go unanswered, because it speaks to who we are as a people. In a world that confronts us daily with palpable evils, disciplining members for making the leadership uncomfortable is the small behavior of a puny people. Is that who we are? I hope not.
LDS leaders discipline people who make them uncomfortable because they value being comfortable more than they fear the backlash from disciplining them. In other words, church leaders discipline difficult Mormons because they believe that other Mormons will tolerate it. But will we tolerate it this time? Again, I hope not, but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I don’t belong in Mormonism. Perhaps most of the membership does find John and Kate to be objectionable and would find me equally objectionable if I were as well-known. If I were to surmise that this is the case, I’d simply resign. Not out of protest, but because I would not worship in that man’s company who fears his fellowship to worship with me.
Several years ago a Dehlin family friend was in Boston for their baby’s heart surgery. They were alone in a strange city, full of anxiety for their child, and scared for his life — perhaps scared beyond anything they’d ever known. John wanted to reach out and offer comfort from where he lived in Logan, Utah. Since he couldn’t be in Boston personally, he reached into his vast network of Mormon friends, and he did the next best thing. He sent me. I went to the hospital with a care package and a message of love from John.
The Epistle of James calls this pure religion.
John is a man who sees need and does what he can to reach out with charity. I’m proud to call John Dehlin my friend. Because I know John, I can testify of his righteousness. I know people who have only stayed in the church because of the work that John has done, and excommunicating John is a de facto rejection of the terms upon which they maintain their connection to Mormonism. I believe that those church leaders who are hauling John in front of a church court will answer for it before the bar of God, much as Harold B. Lee will have to answer for his inveterate racism and Boyd K. Packer will have to answer for any role that he played in excommunicating the September 6. They will answer for the harm that they have done to the good name of the church, for the damage that they wreak among the membership, for the missionary opportunities that they have closed, and for the inactive members who will never return. At least that’s the Mormonism I believe; it is difficult to imagine a salvation worth having in a church led by these men unless they, too, are answerable for their errors.
According to Kate Kelly’s statement, she informed her bishop in advance of every action that Ordain Women took. He neither indicated nor intimated that he had a problem at any time. While she was packing to move to a different ward, she received a letter from her Stake President informing her of her “informal probation,” which is an unofficial disciplinary step that leaders are allowed to take and is described in the Church Handbook of Instruction. Then, three weeks after she had moved out of that bishop’s ward, she received from him a letter summoning her to a church court. This is a cowardly and pathetic move.
Being members of the LDS church helps to define who we are. From time to time, one has to perform a reality check to determine if this is who we want to be. And if the answer is no, then we must take steps to transform the church. If you object to hauling Kate Kelly and John Dehlin before a disciplinary council, then please object with all the power you have.
The church offered a mealy-mouthed press release about church discipline this afternoon. The curious can read here. It has already received thousands of “likes” on Facebook, which is awful. It states, “Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.” This is a lie. Multiple high-profile excommunicants have reported that their stake president confirmed receiving direction from higher-ups (e.g., John Charles-Duffy’s blog post on this very topic).
Many people believe that the church will never respond to public pressure. It is true that after enduring more than a century of humiliation in which public pressure forced the LDS church to cave-in on everything from polygamy to civil rights to women who work outside the home, the church has developed a pattern of responding like a wounded animal to public pressure. Responding like a wounded animal is not a Christ-like response, and we must demand the highest standards of conduct from church leaders regardless of how understandable their behavior might be in light of their historical difficulties.
The issue isn’t whether you agree with Kate Kelly or John Dehlin. The issue is whether there is a place in our church for them. I believe that people like them make the church a better place, and it boggles my mind that they are rejected while groups like Mormon Women Stand, which is led by the crazy person who came up with the gay Frozen theory, gets openly embraced by the church. My good friend Guy Murray stated on Facebook something that captures my feelings and frustrations: “The 9th article of faith has now been repealed…”, because this seems to close off any doctrinal progress through revelation or inspiration, and replaces it with a tenacious grip on the status quo.
Whether you agree with the ideas expressed by Ordain Women or John Dehlin’s podcasts and organization, please do what you can to support them. Kate Kelly has a page outlining both her situation and where people can send notes of support here. I’ll update this when I receive information on John.