Guest post: Church disciplinary councils are not courts of law

This is a guest post by Daniel Ortner, who blogs at

As I recently read Kate Kelly’s letter to her Bishop as well as the “legal brief” submitted on her behalf by Nadine Hansen. As a current law student, my immediate first reaction was to attempt to write a reply brief critical of the arguments advanced therein. Yet, as I thought about the possibility of doing so, I realized how inappropriate such an approach would be in the Church.

I was reminded of Bruce C. Hafen’s timeless warning from a talk entitled On Dealing with Uncertainty:

I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law students that those who take too much delight in their finely honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness, in the church and elsewhere, because they can become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to commit themselves. I have seen some of these try out their new intellectual tools in some context like a priesthood quorum or a Sunday School class. A well-meaning teacher will make a point they think is a little silly, and they will feel an irresistible urge to leap to their feet and pop the teacher’s bubble. If they are successful, they begin looking for other opportunities to point out the exception to any rule anybody can state. They begin to delight in cross-examination of the unsuspecting, just looking for somebody’s bubble up there floating around so that they can pop it with their shiny new pin of skepticism. And in all that, they fail to realize that when some of those bubbles pop, out goes the air, and with it goes much of the feeling of trust, loyalty, harmony, and sincerity so essential to preserving the Spirit of the Lord.

If that begins to happen in your ward, in your home, or in your marriage, you will have begun to destroy the fragile fabric of trust that binds us together in all loving relationships. People may come away from some of their encounters with you wondering how you can possibly have a deep commitment to the Church and do some of the things you do.

Unfortunately, I saw many of the symptoms that Elder Hafen warned of as I read Nadine’s brief. Continue reading

Guest post: Hammering the table

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson, who says he is an active member of what may be the most geographically expansive branch of the Church in North America. He is a father, husband and attorney. He spent yesterday, Saturday, June 21, 2014, driving up the northern peninsula of Newfoundland in search of icebergs and moose. Plenty of both were seen and captured photographically.

When the facts are on your side, hammer the facts. When the law is on your side, hammer the law. When neither is on your side, hammer the table. I have no idea who first said that, but this is advice almost all trial lawyers have heard at one time or another. As an experienced trial advocate, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do each of these, and each course of action is perfectly acceptable in our system of justice. Courts are great places in which everyone has a shot, even those who have no basis in law or fact to expect success.

This leads me to the increasingly tragic saga of Kate Kelly and her little club. As most readers of this will know, Ms. Kelly’s attendance has been requested at a disciplinary council to be held this evening. She has publicly stated that she has no intention of appearing, though a gaggle of her supporters will be appearing at the Church in Virginia in her stead. Ms. Kelly herself will be attending a demonstration in Salt Lake City instead, to protest the Church for her bishop’s decision to convene the council in the first instance.

Instead of attending, she submitted a personal statement signed by herself, a legal brief drafted by Nadine Hansen and a circular file worth of anonymous statements in her defense. Having reviewed each, or at least as much as has been made available online, I am not terribly moved. She can’t argue the facts, as they are not in dispute. Ms. Kelly concedes in various statements this last week that if they are merely going to ask whether she had done the things she has been accused of, that there is no defense. She can’t argue the law, because the law condemns her. She continued to preach her doctrine of gender equity long after she had been warned to stop by her stake president. The definition of apostasy is clearly met here and there is no defense to it. So, she hammers the table, as does Ms. Hansen.

Continue reading

Some thoughts on excommunication

This is a guest post by Beau Sorenson.

Beau Sorensen is a healthcare executive living in Provo, Utah with his wife
and four children. He is co-author of the book “Entrepreneur on Fire”

It’s taken me a few days to come up with some coherent
thoughts on the calls to disciplinary hearings for John Dehlin and Kate
Kelly. I’ve read more than is probably good and thought constantly about it.
That being said, here are the two most important thoughts I have on the

1. Excommunication isn’t a punishment. (Note: neither Bro. Dehlin or Sis. Kelly has been excommunicated. This will be decided during the disciplinary council process). We need to shift our paradigm. All I
have heard since this broke is how Bro. Dehlin and Sis. Kelly are being
punished. Mr. Dehlin is being punished for his vocal advocacy of LGBT causes
and Mormon Stories podcast and website where he openly admits that he has
serious doubts about members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Book of
Mormon, and the LDS Church. Ms. Kelly is being punished for being an
outspoken advocate of women, for mobilizing hundreds of men and women alike
to push for the ordination of women to priesthood offices.

We are wrong to think of excommunication in this way. It certainly can come
across as a punishment. It will lessen the impact of their voices over the
long run, though it is amplifying them today. Instead, excommunication is a
merciful blessing to Bro. Dehlin and Sis. Kelly. How can taking away these
blessings be an act of mercy? It is merciful to these two because they don’t
just lose the blessings of the temple and baptism – they also lose the
covenant relationship. This allows them to work through whatever issues they
have with God, with the Church, or with the Brethren without covenants
hanging over their head. To quote Doctrine & Covenants 82:3, “For of him
unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the
greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”

They had the greater light and knowledge at one point in time, but years of
doubts and life experience have caused that light to dissipate. That’s not
to say it can’t return. What it is to say is that as they continue down the
paths they are on right now, it is better for their souls to continue
without the covenants they have made, lest they receive greater

Excommunication isn’t the end, it’s a new beginning. Continue reading

New Website: Discussing Marriage

This morning, a new website launched at

What is marriage? Why is the topic such a contentious issue in modern day politics? What is at stake in the marriage debate? On this website, the authors attempt to respond to these questions and more. There are new and compelling arguments for why man-woman marriage is good public policy, but they are not well known. The hope is that this website will help bring these arguments to light, and provide people with the resources to understand them. The purpose of this site is also to inject humility into the conversation on both sides of the issue. Reasoned, measured, and respectful dialogue is possible with regards to marriage.

A note for M* readers: There is no reason that we, as Latter-day Saints, cannot defend traditional marriage as a pillar of our faith, and as sound, informed, reasoned public policy. There are secular, public sphere arguments for traditional marriage — perhaps dozens of them — that have nothing to do with religious doctrine or belief. This site will present them (there are two currently published, with many others on the way).

Current articles:
The Conjugal View and Revisionist View of Marriage
The Argument from Crucial Distinction
The Argument from Public Interest
The Objection from Infertility
The Objection from Bigotry

Please visit the site, and read the articles — and share them. There are YouTube videos also associated with each article.

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