All right, I'm back from Indiana (a post for another time, perhaps). I had said I wished to talk about excommunication, both my own and the possible excommunications of Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly and Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin.
As far as Kate Kelly goes, these two posts at Thinking Mormon Woman and Neylan McBaine's blog pretty much sum up many of the thoughts I have on Sister Kelly's future disciplinary proceedings. Kate Kelly, upon receiving an email from her bishop informing her of disciplinary council said she was "totally, totally floored." While she may have been surprised, I think she must have her head in the sand a bit to not know that this might be a possibility.
As far as what Kate Kelly believes, I have no problem with her feminist views or the fact that she thinks women in the LDS Church should have a more prominent voice. I have no problem with her desire that women be given the priesthood. Frankly, I have no strong views either way about whether women have the priesthood or not. It's not an issue about which I am particularly passionate.
I certainly do have feminist views. I think women in the church should have more of a voice and presence since decisions and policies affect them. So you might think I'd be more supportive of her not facing disciplinary proceedings. I don't know that excommunication is warranted or not, but I do understand why her local leaders might be concerned.
Look, to me Kate Kelly's beliefs are not the problem; it's her tactics that are the problem. She's agitating for change (which is understandable), but seems surprised that there will be consequences for doing so.
People whose opinions I like and respect, including Jana Reiss and Johanna Brooks, have run to Kelly's defense and wonder why members can't ask hard questions without having to worry that their membership is in danger. That's a valid concern. But to me, I don't feel that church leaders are bringing up disciplinary proceedings because Kate Kelly or John Dehlin are asking hard questions; they are bringing them up because Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are "preaching" contrary to the current doctrine of the church and others are following them rather than toeing the church line.
I've met John Dehlin. I like him. I like what he preaches. I think he's given disenfranchised members a place to belong. I think he's done a lot to help LGBT members and former members find love and acceptance that maybe they didn't always find in their church membership. I think he's a man who has honest questions. I think he's sincere. I think he's a good person. I don't think he desires to lead anyone away from the LDS Church. I think he just wants to give voice to people within the church who don't feel they have one. And I think that's admirable. We could use more of that in the church.
However, some of the ideas and voices that are being propagated by John Dehlin and his Mormon Stories podcast are leading people away from the organized church whether that is John's intention or not (and I don't think it is).
The issue may be that people like Kate Kelly and John Dehlin would like the LDS Church to change. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are changes I would like to see the LDS Church make. But if the church is really run by God, as its leaders and members believe it is, then the church will change when God says it should change, not when individual members feel it should change.
I don't know Kate Kelly or really much about her. I don't doubt that she's a well-intentioned and good person, but the problem I see that church leaders might have with her is that she is agitating church leaders to do things on her time table rather than on the Lord's.
In The Guardian Kate Kelly says, "I face potential excommunication for the simple act of opening my mouth
and starting a conversation about gender equality in the church and the
deep roots of this institutional inequality."
No, Kate, that isn't why you're facing excommunication. You're facing excommunication because you're pretty much demanding that church leaders adopt your beliefs that women should be ordained and you're disobeying the counsel that both they and your local leaders have given you to take down the Ordain Women website, break ties with the group, to not disrupt General Conference proceedings with your cause, and to "stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and lead others away from the church" (Salt Lake Tribune article).
You're facing excommunication because your pride is causing you to think that you know more about what God wants than the ordained leaders of the church do.
I'm not judging Kate Kelly. She says she is unwilling to do what her leaders have asked because she couldn't do so and still be "authentic" to who she feels she is and what she has to fight for. I totally get that. I feel the same way about being gay and being with my husband. And that's exactly why I was excommunicated.
Just like Kate Kelly feels she was inspired to start the Ordain Women movement, I felt inspired to make my life with Jonah. But whether we were inspired to do so, whether that was a personal revelation from the Lord or not, it does not negate the fact that what either of us believe or preach may not be in line with official church doctrine.
Would it be great if the LDS Church recognized my relationship and marriage as acceptable and non-sinful? Sure.
But they don't. That doesn't mean they won't some day, but they don't now and they didn't at the time I made a choice to have a commitment ceremony with my partner and have a sexual relationship with him. And I refused to step away from Jonah and our relationship in order to remain a member in good standing. And that was why I was excommunicated - because I was unwilling to follow the LDS Church's doctrine as it was currently laid out. Because I thought I knew better about the choices that would make me happy than the church did.
Being excommunicated is hard. It's painful. It's not fun. One certainly does feel a loss when it happens. But I am undoubtedly happier now than I was when I was an active member of the church. I did what was best for me. I have no regrets about it. It's easier to live my life now because I don't have to try to be in harmony with an organization where I couldn't find full alignment without sacrificing my own emotional well-being. And maybe people like Kate Kelly and John Dehlin can't do so either.
It's too bad. I think the church loses a lot of good people to excommunication, and while I understand intellectually that excommunication is designed to both protect the church and the member being excommunicated, I think excommunication often drives people farther away from the church rather than helping them to return.
Kate Kelly often talks about how faithful she and other members like her are. Maybe she feels she is a good member of the church. She probably is. But is it really showing faithfulness to the leaders of the church to defy them because you think you know better than they do? She urges the leaders to pray about the issues that are important to her and presupposes that they haven't. Maybe they have. Maybe they have asked God if it's okay for women to have the priesthood. Maybe God has answered no. But because it's an answer Kate Kelly doesn't like and because it doesn't match what she believes God's will is, she fights against it. And that's her right and maybe even her duty. But don't pretend that action isn't going to have a consequence when it goes against current doctrine.
I wasn't surprised when I was excommunicated. I hoped I wouldn't be. But I wasn't surprised I was. I was going against established doctrine. I faced the consequences of my actions and accepted it. I wasn't a martyr. I did what was right for me, but went against the church in doing so. And like Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, I continue to advocate and fight for the things I believe are right.
If the LDS Church really is true and God doesn't want women to have the priesthood or for people in gay relationships to get married, and there are those of us who don't agree with that, we can leave the church and try to find our truth somewhere else. If Kate Kelly wants the priesthood, she can either find a church that will give it to her or wait until the one she believes is true deems it time to do so. She can ask all the hard questions she wants; she can refuse to be silenced; but if what she wants is not currently God's will and if the leaders of the LDS Church are really who they say they are, then they have every right to discipline her for agitating and promoting a change in doctrine that is not ready to be changed.
The church does change. The church can change. Look at things like polygamy or blacks and the priesthood. And I'm not saying that society doesn't have an impact on church policy. Women having the priesthood may be an eternal doctrine. I actually believe it is. Some people think polygamy is, too, but any member of the church who were to practice polygamy right now would likely be excommunicated if their leaders found out about it. There is much we don't understand, and things have to be done on the Lord's timetable, not our own. The bottom line is if one really believes the LDS Church is God's true church on earth, then one has to decide whether he or she will truly follow the men God has appointed as his spokesmen. If you're not willing to do, as I was not, there will be consequences.
I've never claimed I knew better than the leaders of the church; I just did what I felt I had to do for my own emotional well-being. A church can excommunicate you from itself, but nobody but God can excommunicate you from God.
I don't always know if excommunication is inspired or helpful or why some people are excommunicated and others are not. I also don't necessarily think excommunication affects one's standing with the Lord. For example, I look at someone like Lavina Fielding Anderson and think her standing is probably okay even though she's been excommunicated for 20 years. I feel good about my own standing with my Heavenly Father.
Should people like Kate Kelly or John Dehlin or Lavina Anderson or me be excommunicated? I don't know. But I won't pretend to be surprised when we are.