Guest post: Apostasy For Dummies

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson.

Have you ever been tempted to hang out with a group of edgy Mormons, like those who are bitter that the Church places greater value on a woman being a mother and wife rather than a doctor or lawyer? Do you sympathize with folks who have some weird ideas about the Gospel, like those who are calling for female ordination? Do you have a sibling or parent who thinks that the Church perpetrates “an antiquated and unequal model in both the domestic and ecclesiastical realms?” Be careful, you might just be flirting with apostasy.

“But Brother Davidson,” you say, “how can we know whether or not these friends or family members are apostates?” That is an excellent question, and while I don’t know your friends and family personally, hopefully this post will give you a clue as to how to judge a righteous judgment on this regard. Elder Faust, in his October 1993 General Conference address, gives some clear guidelines that you can apply to any situation. He quoted the Handbook of Instructions as saying, “among the activities considered apostate to the Church include when members (1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; (2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or (3) continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority.” This definition remains in the Handbook today with no alteration.

Elder Faust then expanded on the topic by warning against apostasy. He said “those men and women who persist in publicly challenging basic doctrines, practices, and establishment of the Church sever themselves from the Spirit of the Lord and forfeit their right to place and influence in the Church.” It’s ironic that most of the apostates in the history of the Church tend to want to influence or change the Church, but the act of apostasy strips them of any right to have influence in the Church that they might otherwise have enjoyed. Elder Faust also warned in this talk that “There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the Councils called to preside over us. Those Councils are more in tune with the Lord than any individual persons they preside over, and the individual members of the Councils are generally guided by those Councils.”

Additionally, did you know that the Handbook says that “a disciplinary counsel must be held when evidence suggests that a member may have committed … apostasy?” According to the Handbook, your bishop and your stake president have no discretion in deciding whether to convene a disciplinary counsel if there is evidence of possible apostasy. They simply must do it. As a result, it is therefore pretty important to be careful to stay on this side of the apostasy line if you don’t want to end up in a disciplinary counsel.

To sum up, to determine whether someone or some group is apostate, in order to guide our own decisions as to whether we should support or sympathize with them, we should consider whether:

1. 1. they repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders;

2. 2. they persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority;

3. 3. they claim their ideas are superior due to their greater spiritual intelligence or learning in comparison with the Church’s governing councils;

4. 4. they claim to be more righteous than the Church’s governing councils; or

5. 5. they are polygamists.

“But Brother Davidson,” you continue, “these definitions are all good, but can you give us some real world examples to illustrate what they mean?” That is yet another excellent question. In talking about examples, let’s keep in mind that question 2 above will be hard to address. You will likely not know if they have been warned off their activities by their bishop or stake president. If they have, and they persist, the question is easy. For purposes of this discussion, let’s question whether something being taught or done is something that their bishop would likely warn them against. As for an example for illustrative purposes, I decided against several potential case studies before settling on the right example. I don’t want to pick on anyone in particular, so let’s try to keep these folks somewhat anonymous.

The first person I thought of was a lady who got excommunicated a little over twenty years ago for apostasy, let’s call or M. Toscano … wait, that might give too much away, we’ll call her Margaret T., but it was so long ago that it wouldn’t be too relevant. I wonder if she’s still around some where plotting some insurrection against the Church? Nah, that would be silly.

After that, I remembered attending a stake conference in Manti, Utah in January 1994 in which all sorts of interesting things happened. A whole group of people stood up during the sustainings and voted against everyone except for Pres. Benson. That group was colorful, and kept trying to break into the Manti Temple to perform rituals and ended up engaging in polygamy and a whole bunch of other stuff. I decided against featuring this group because they were too out there. That group was not really something most of our readers would be encountering or be tempted by. Manti has a great history of apostate groups. There might be another guest post in that.

Finally I settled on something a bit more contemporary. I don’t want to criticize anyone too directly, so I’ll stick with initials in talking about this group and its leaders. Hopefully that won’t be too distracting. Anyway, there’s this group called “O.W.” They’re kind of small, so you might not have heard of them, and that’s fine, we’re just using them as an example here so I don’t have to make everything up.

In setting up this example, let’s engage in a bit of a hypothetical. Suppose two members of O.W. came to your house (we’ll call them K.K. and L.W.) and started talking to you about the priesthood. How would you know whether these folks were apostates or not? Let’s use this hypothetical to explore the question. I’ll stop you at a few places and ask you to decide whether any of the questions above lean towards deciding they are, or may be, apostates.

First, L.W. shares with you O.W.’s mission statement. When reading it, you notice that it says that “God is male and female, father and mother, and all of us can progress to be like them someday.” This strikes you as a bit of a departure from the doctrine taught in the First Article of Faith, where it states that “we believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

The mission statement goes on to say, “Priesthood, we are taught, is essential to this process. O.W. believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings.” Again, you suspect that this might not be entirely kosher. You seem to remember a recent conference talk by an apostle in which he made it pretty clear that only men are to be ordained, and this seems to be suggesting that they believe that the Church is wrong on this point.

POP QUIZ #1: Are we in apostate territory yet? Think about questions 2 and 3 above.

Next, K.K. tells you:

“As a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have authentic questions. While I am grateful that those who lead do their best to listen to the females they serve, I question why the governing structure of our church is almost entirely comprised of males. I question why we don’t speak often of our Heavenly Mother, although I am grateful that She is acknowledged in documents like The Family Proclamation. I am grateful for the opportunities my daughter will have to grow and serve in the church, however, I question why my son will be able to spiritually lead both men and women, baptize, bless the sacrament, stand as a witness at ordinances, bless his children, anoint the sick with oil and pronounce blessings, while my daughter will not have those empowering experiences.”

K.K. then continues and says, “The ordination of women would put us on completely equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and nothing less will suffice.” You listen kindly to this, but you wonder whether these ideas are evidence of apostasy. K.K. seems sincere, but she is advocating for a different characterization of the Godhead than is currently found in the standard works. Plus, she seems to be suggesting that the Church and the doctrines and policies related to the Priesthood are flawed or arising from some lesser understanding.

POP QUIZ #2: Is this apostate territory?

L.W. pipes in and starts lecturing, “To deny women access to decision-making authority in any community–religious or otherwise–opens up a space for the more extreme forms of discrimination and abuse that millions of women in the world endure. Mormonism teaches that our essential selves are uncreated. Thus, we are free agents responsible for our choice either to perpetuate this inequity by inaction or to embrace a moral activism that requires us to work for justice and equality.” K.K. then chimes in to explain, “O.W. has pulled back the curtain on the gender exclusivity of the priesthood, and opened up a new conversation. We have created this movement in an attempt to transform what has so far been a monologue about priesthood power in the church into an interactive dialogue. Although it can be frightening to challenge the status quo and the candidly acknowledge that the roots of inequality run deep, it is a necessary step. We have seen the man behind the curtain, and without the ordination of women, no amount of emphatic insistence that women already have an equal place in the church will make it so.” Now, these two ladies seem to be saying that they have some insight and understanding that is greater or higher than those of the governing counsels.

POP QUIZ #3: Apostate yet?

They then tell you that at the last two General Conferences they have marched a small group of women over to Temple Square to demand admission to the Priesthood Session. K.K. says, “We [wanted] to hear directly from the leaders of our church in preparation for the responsibility that comes with ordination and to demonstrate our commitment and readiness…. It is apparent that we need to express ourselves in a more public way—agitating faithfully—in order for our leaders to understand that we want both the blessings and the authority of the priesthood and that we are not happy being excluded. As we publicly break cultural taboos that silence women, we believe more women will find the courage to honestly express their righteous desire to participate fully with men in all aspects of church governance, service and sacred ordinances.” You again are uncomfortable with the idea of repeated public protests in which the ladies in O.W. claim to want to engage the leaders of the Church in some discussion to share their unique concerns and greater understanding of gender issues.

POP QUIZ #4: What say you now? Do these public actions constitute deliberate opposition to the Church and its leaders?

I know that there may be differences of opinion on each of questions. I’m interested in what responses people have to this “hypothetical.”

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

55 thoughts on “Guest post: Apostasy For Dummies

  1. FYI: All quotes above are actual quotes from written materials readily available the the O.W. website. Where they are attributed to specific individuals, those individuals are directly quoted.

  2. Yes, and it needs to be dealt with. I have never seen so much protest and dissension in the church during my lifetime. If you believe that the Church is led by Jesus Christ, how could you protest or believe that your protests would result in change. You could only seek an understanding of His will, or, at most, pray to change it. And if you do not believe the Church is led by Him then you should leave and go find His church. Those who are taking positions against the Church on the OW issue and same sex issue are increasing divisions and disunity among us. The Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind. These movements are destroying Zion and the Church should act before they cause further damage and draw away additional members of the fold.

  3. I don’t disagree with this post. However, it’s easy to see how OW and the like will. You see, to them, apostasy doesn’t have to do with our relationship to other people, since they embrace a kind of gospel of individualism in which the only thing that matters is our individual relationships to God and the propositions that He espouses. Thus, they will pit the people that run the church against various ideas and experiences which they equate with The Divine. They will thus see themselves as not being apostate since what really matters, in their opinion, is their relationship to those experiences and ideas, not to any other people.

  4. Michael, you give yourself a pat on the back for judging others (what you rather self-righteously call “judging righteous judgment”) … and then warn *us* about apostasy? You rather boldly suggest local leaders of various OW participants ought to hold a disciplinary council on them (which they plainly haven’t) as if publicly calling for formal discipline against another church member is … what, an act of charity? Who is more out of line here, OW types (who are asking to go to a meeting and get the power to do more service in the Church) or you (trying to exercise authority and judgment you do not have to push people out of the Church)? I know your intentions are probably good, but you should focus on dealing with your own problems (see above) and let other people’s local leaders deal with other people.

  5. Sigh. Four yeses, or at least enough information that I would need to hold a disciplinary council. Don’t know what the final decision would be. I would hope to hear something that would not result in excommunication. I’ve been pondering the “insubordination” aspect of apostasy. Perhaps, because I am a priesthood holder and hold an office, I understand the ‘top down’ aspect of church government. Maybe these women don’t feel that same ‘order’ as much because they, in fact, have not participated in it to the extent I have. Nonetheless, the male supporters of OW should understand it. And anyone, whether a priesthood holder or not, should understand when someone in authority tells you not to do something, doing it anyway is an act of insubordination. That is a life lesson learned at the knees of our parents, from teacher and administrators at school, and in the work place.

  6. Dave writes, “Michael, you give yourself a pat on the back for judging others (what you rather self-righteously call “judging righteous judgment”) … and then warn *us* about apostasy?”

    I always find these types of comments literally hilarious because the writer is so lacking in self-awareness. Dave thinks Michael is self-righteous but never considers he is also self-righteous (and probably more so) by judging Michael. Sigh. When will it end?

    For the record, I published this post because it is a side of the discussion you simply won’t see happen anywhere else but is a side that many (most?) Latter-day Saints wonder about. I have heard from literally dozens of active Church members who ask, “why aren’t these OW people being sent to Church discipline?” So, considering whether they should or not is a natural subject for a post.

    I am on record as saying that, in my opinion, *privately* discussing women’s priesthood ordination with other people is certainly not as clearly a violation of Church discipline as publicly protesting against the Church (twice). But I also would say that it depends what is encouraged and how the discussions take place. In general, I am much less worried about private discussions than Michael is because 1)I don’t think the Church should and would be discouraging people to talk about things and 2)private is better than public and 3)I think such a movement is certain to fizzle out within months and last as long as the Godbeite movement (Google it). So I don’t agree with Michael that we should be too concerned about private discussions OW people have with other members, but I am self-aware enough not to accuse him of self-righteousness (because that would make me self-righteous).

  7. It is interesting that strangers using pseudonyms on the internet know better what to do with OW supporters than their individual bishops and stake presidents. Speculating about who should be ex’ed, yeah, that’s always a good time.

    Apostasy for Dummies? Well, at the last word hits the nail on the head.

  8. Jeff, I bear my testimony that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through the power of God and that modern-day prophets have authority from God. The Church is 100 percent true in terms of its major truth claims. Yes.

  9. Jack, Michael Davidson uses his full name on this post. What is your full name or do you only believe in using pseudonyms?

    A note to commenters: I am going to be moderating comments because apparently a link went up somewhere. We are getting the usual very pathetic ex-Mormons commenting (don’t have anything better to do than to hang around Mormon internet boards — get on with your lives, people!)

  10. Do non-elders have more latitude in such matters than those who have been ordained?

  11. [I'm at work, so I apologize if I get a bit behind on responding to comments.]

    Jeff G., there is a lot of talk in the O.W. circles about “speaking our truth” and responding to what they see as the “Divine.” (I’ve waded through more of it than you might suspect.) So I agree with your point. This goes back to the arrogance Elder Faust warns about in the included quote. When someone speaks their truth it is usually an indication that “their truth” is different from the established order of things. I don’t have a great concern with people doing that, but ideas like actions have consequences. Most of the OW detractors are told to mind our own business and leave them alone, completely ignorant to the fact that they aren’t leaving us alone. The point is that you hit the nail on the head.

  12. Let me try again.

    It is interesting that strangers on the internet know better what to do with OW supporters than their individual bishops and stake presidents. Speculating about who should be ex’ed, yeah, that’s always a good time. It also falls outside the order of the church, for what it’s worth. Bishops and stake presidents are the judges in Israel, not the bloggers and commenters here.

    [Insult removed]

    I also bear testimony of the gospel, president Monson, and the book of Mormon.

  13. Dave, I didn’t pat myself on my back. Likewise, I didn’t call for anyone to institute a disciplinary council. Rather, I was merely pointing out the Handbook doesn’t give local bishops and stake presidents discretion on this issue. According to the instructions, bishops and stake presidents are required to call a council if there is evidence of apostasy. That’s a simple fact. Some will abide by the directions and others may not, they are individuals.

    As for the rest of it, I simply asked the question whether a smattering of some of the published statements of just a couple of the leaders of OW constituted evidence of apostasy. And yes, it is important for individual members of the Church to discern this for themselves. OW has stated publicly (or at least Kate Kelly has announced on behalf of OW) that their next steps are to head out and spread their gospel of gender equality with their friends and neighbors using six discussions. In their missionary zeal, individual members will be required to answer the question of whether or not they want to be associated with this. This post does nothing more than act as a counter balance to Kate Kelly’s assurances that you won’t be called in to talk to your bishop, because you very well might.

  14. Good post, but a bit outdated in my opinion.

    Today’s apostates don’t usually get excommunicated or even disciplined, because the church is much less inclined to police it’s doctrine on the Internet than it might have been with Toscano.

    I’d be one of those edgy Mormons, but its also a matter of degree. But some might say you are an edgy Mormon, because you say “Mormons” rather than “members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

    Ultimately, I think apostasy has less to do with personal beliefs, and more to do with your spirit and commitment to the church. General Authorities disagree among themselves about some points of doctrine. Not really a big deal if you think women should receive the priesthood or not. But setting yourself up as an authority over them, without respecting God called them, not you, that is the road to apostasy.

  15. IDIAT, I think when you listen to Kate Kelly tell her life story, which I have on several podcasts and written interviews, she likely didn’t learn those life lessons. It’s a coming malady in my generation, and more so for the ones following mine, that they don’t take direction from anyone other than themselves. It’s “speaking their own truth” that matters, which only works when you are in complete agreement with the Savior. I think the submissive attitude is something that O.W. supporters bristle against, if you believe what their profiles say, no matter who is giving the orders.

  16. “Rather, I was merely pointing out the Handbook doesn’t give local bishops and stake presidents discretion on this issue. According to the instructions, bishops and stake presidents are required to call a council if there is evidence of apostasy. That’s a simple fact. Some will abide by the directions and others may not, they are individuals.”

    This interests me, for a couple of reasons. You are saying, in a very nice way to be sure, that you know better than 500 bishops and 500 stake presidents, how they should be doing their jobs.

    In addition, this: “they repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders”

    In 2012, the highest profile Mormon in the world spent millions of dollars trying to convince Americans that their church leaders were mistaken about how the problem of illegal immigration should be addressed. By your reasoning, his bishop should have held a disciplinary council. Or am I misreading you?

  17. I’m surprised – even though I know I shouldn’t be – at how defensive people are to this post. Michael is not saying that these people should be excommunicated or that they clearly are apostates. What he is pointing out is how close these people clearly are to apostasy. To be sure, some people will answer his questions in the affirmative while others will not. As has been pointed out, that is up to the individuals stake presidents and bishops to decide. I think we all can agree, however, that OW is definitely flirting with apostasy.

  18. Good post by M. Davidson. What annoys me so much about the OW group is how hypocritical they are in lobbying exclusively for women’s rights, as if that is going to make men and women equal. To be equal men also need to be given their rights. To my knowledge, not one man in this Church has the right to call down from heaven those spirits of a pre-earthly realm, embody those spirits with a physical tabernacle, and nurture and bond with them inside their own bodies until the moment of birth…and that’s just the beginning. Sure, men participate to a minimal degree, but are actually only needed for an all so fleeting moment. It is one of the most sublime mysteries of the universe to which I hope to one day have the answer: why, and how? (It is at the top of my list). That miracle of pregnancy and birth and its interface with the pre-mortal and mortal realms of every human who has ever lived upon the earth, even the Savior himself, is something awesome to which only women are now privileged. If we are going to be equal in this Church, then let us all be equal. Let’s not just pine for the rights of one-half of the members only.

  19. I’ve gotta agree with Jeff G that the angst this post apparently raises in some quarters is very strange indeed. Michael Davidson is NOT claiming the authority to declare these people apostate. He is simply reading from the Church handbook and applying what it says there to the words of the OW movement. Readers can discern for themselves what this means for them and for the leaders of the OW movement. As I wrote before, I have had many, many people ask whether such actions should make these people subject to Church discipline. Exploring the issue is simply a natural reaction for many (most?) active Church members.

  20. When somebody who isn’t called and set apart publicly states that hundreds of people who are called and set apart aren’t doing their jobs according to the handbook — “that’s a simple fact” — that individual is flirting with apostasy. I think we can all agree on that.

  21. From IDIAT: “[Anyone] should understand when someone in authority tells you not to do something, doing it anyway is an act of insubordination.”


    I don’t think we’ll have a rash of excommunications a la September Six. But I think Elder Oaks’ talk in Priesthood meeting gave the hundreds of bishops and stake presidents clarity they might have previously lacked on what the Church’s doctrine actually is.

    I could only wish Elder Oaks had clarified that when we are set apart we are thereby ordained to perform that calling under the direction of the priesthood, as termed in the revelation Emma Smith received in 1830.

  22. I think in part this post is a response to one of my questions on another thread about what one might do if he was the priesthood leader of an OW supporter. I appreciate Michael taking the time to think through the exercise. I don’t take it as some absolute form of judgment or an attempt to usurp the authority and inspiration of the local church leaders of OW supporters. It’s a thought exercise, plain and simple. I daresay there are few of us who haven’t thought at some point in our life: “Well, if it were me, this is what I would do….” So, no use to get too riled up about the post and questions posed. I don’t worry about a member’s status because it’s not my business — today. But it may be tomorrow if I am called to serve in that capacity. I seem to recall a post by KK at fMh several months indicating she had met with her SP, how he listened to her concerns, assured her the meeting was not about discipline, etc. Many of us might have felt a sigh of relief, and thought “maybe I need to rethink what I’m doing and work in different ways to address gender inequality.” Instead, it almost seems to have emboldened her and the lack of discipline might have been seen as justification for her future actions (that is, making another go round at April’s conference.) I don’t know. I’ve know my own stake president very well for almost 12 years. I can not guarantee anything, but based our discussions thus far, my guess is that he would have already held a disciplinary council based precisely upon the information in the post. It could be that higher GA’s have told local authorities to bend over backwards to accommodate OW supporters. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. We do know that the moment a letter is hand delivered to an OW supporter inviting him or her to a disciplinary council, it will go straight to the media and be blasted across the bloggernacle as cruel and unusual punishment.

  23. I don’t think it is for us to judge these women, as a group or individuals. It is up to their bishops and stake presidents. That they are walking a fine line is indisputable. Which side of the line they will end up on depends on many factors, including patience from their leaders.

    As a member of a high council and having served on several bishoprics, I know the duty of the priesthood leadership is not to go out on witch hunts. It is to help those who are sinning or falling to come back into the fellowship of God and the Saints. I believe the leaders involved are doing what they should: watch and counsel in private, as necessary.

    I do not know Kate Kelley and the others. For all I know, she has been a very faithful member of the Church for years. I do know several that sympathize to some extent with the OW movement (including Joanna Brookes and Jana Riess). Those I know, I believe to be faithful members of the Church.

    I know many LDS who support gay marriage. I consider them faithful members of the Church, as well. As far as I can tell, their current temple recommends are as valid as my own. I see people hurting in life. Some of their own volition, some not. I pray God will heal their hurts and help them feel whole, regardless of whether He chooses to give anyone priesthood or marriage rights, etc.

    I personally hope the OW sisters will find peace within the confines currently set by the Lord through his servants. And I hope they do not have to feel we are pushing them away with names of “apostate”. Just this past weekend, President Monson asked us to defend the Church, but to do so with kindness. I wonder if he would approve of the harshness of this post?

  24. Jack,

    “When somebody who isn’t called and set apart publicly states that hundreds of people who are called and set apart aren’t doing their jobs according to the handbook — “that’s a simple fact” — that individual is flirting with apostasy. I think we can all agree on that.”

    You’re right, we do all agree on that.

    This, however, does not address anything that Michael actually said, but instead tries to take the exact same spotlight away from OW and put it on Michael. This, however, raises another issue: Is pointing that accusatory spotlight of apostasy on others okay or not? Is it is okay, then Michael’s post is clearly kosher. If it is not, then MIchael’s post might not be kosher (most of us still don’t think he was doing this), but your objection to his post clearly is not.

    In other words, your own attempts to pull attention away from OW implode upon themselves. Maybe if your comments addressed OW rather than Michael they won’t be so self-contradictory.

  25. Geoff and Jeff, perhaps you are backtracking in the interest of calming the discussion. But let’s be honest: Yes, MD was trying to label people as apostates (see the snippy little Pop Quiz notes in the post); yes, he said apostates should be the subject of a disciplinary council (“According to the Handbook, your bishop and your stake president have no discretion in deciding whether to convene a disciplinary counsel if there is evidence of possible apostasy. They simply must do it.”), and yes he called people out by name in the post. It’s one thing to engage in the sort of back-and-forth discussions/arguments that sometimes happens in the Bloggernacle (that most of us take in stride) but calling people out by name and urging that they be exed or at least disciplined — really? I value M*’s conservative contribution to the Bloggernacle and have defended you in the past, but this is simply unethical (to the extent you acknowledge any ethical standard in public blog statements) and utterly improper (local leaders can look after their own poeple, thank you). If I were you I’d take down the post and issue an apology.

  26. I think somewhere in the scriptures there’s a saying about the wicket and how they tend to take things… RAM? Do you agree?

  27. Dave, in the wake of Elder Oaks’ discourse, it’s just inaccurate to claim that OW is merely trying to “do more service in the Church”. Elder Oaks was very clear that the service women do is a form of priesthood authority and power. A woman’s efforts will be just as efficacious–just as “magnified” by the Lord, if you will–as the efforts of a man who has been ordained to priesthood office. Therefore what OW is seeking is not priesthood power, but ecclesiastical power.

    Jack, Romney (and others who favor deportation of illegal aliens) get a pass because of the policy in Handbook 2, section 21.1.29: The Church does not endorse any political party or candidate. Nor does it advise members how to vote. However, in some exceptional instances the Church will take a position on specific legislation, particularly when it concludes that moral issues are involved. Only the First Presidency can speak for the Church or commit the Church to support or oppose specific legislation or to seek to intervene in judicial matters. Otherwise, stake presidents and other local leaders should not organize members to participate in political matters or attempt to influence how they participate.

    Political disagreement is different than ecclesiastical or theological disagreement. The bottom line is that church policy is what it is, and OW supporters may be subject to church discipline if they persist. If Kate Kelley really is saying “I haven’t been excommunicated yet, so feel free to climb onto my bandwagon”–well, that schtick was pretty well patented by Denver Snuffer and his acolytes; and it didn’t work out so well for him.

  28. Nate, you’re right on policing the doctrine on the internet. I think part of it is simply that bishops don’t hear back from others in the ward when someone is advocating a heretical idea online, because it’s less likely that others in the ward will see it, or even be able to tell that the person posting it is someone who is actually in their ward. If they start knocking on doors, that will soon change. You’ll notice that even with their actions, O.W. only identify a handful of people by name, and none of the profiles on their website identify anyone sufficiently to really know who any of them are. In a sense, they aren’t as brave as they would have us believe because they remain largely anonymous. I’m not saying that I blame them, and showing up in person takes a lot more courage (however misplaced it might be) than posting on a website using just your first name, but they aren’t exactly standing up to be counted.

  29. Jack said: “You are saying, in a very nice way to be sure, that you know better than 500 bishops and 500 stake presidents, how they should be doing their jobs.” To be perfectly clear, I am not telling any of them how to do their jobs. I was pointing to the instructions that they have been given in doing their jobs. There is a big difference between the two.

    As for the “highest profile Mormon in the world” comment, I must admit ignorance as to whom you are referring to. You might be talking about Mitt Romney, you might be talking about Harry Reid. As for arguing a position about immigration, I think that we can all agree that that concern is a far less cardinal issue than the manner in which the priesthood is administered.

  30. Meg – Handbook 2, 2.1.1 says in part…”All ward and stake auxiliary organizations operate under the direction of the bishop or stake president….They receive delegated authority to function in their callings.” I’m pretty sure this is “delegated authority” to which he referred Saturday night.

  31. Professor Doctor (MD) Bruce Charlton has written much touching on this subject:
    (This guy is an absolute GENIUS, and is now one of my online heroes. Worth putting in your feed for your daily read.)

    Musings on how political equality translates to declaring different things to be legally _the same_:

    Judgementalism is _essential_ to the modern Christian:

    Christians must exercise discernment, therefore judgement is necessary: “In a world of sin and evil – how can a man know what to do, what to believe – who to believe, without deploying judgement of good and evil motivations, intentions, character?”

    Calls to treat different things (or people or groups) ‘equally’ are ALWAYS, eventually, *totally* destructive:

    Discussion of heresy versus apostasy, description and difference between: (bottom line: heretics must be tolerated, apostates must not be tolerated)

  32. Hi IDIAT,

    I don’t disagree, it’s just that D&C 25 uses the word ordain with respect to Emma. That usage of the word has fallen out of service, and it isn’t the “ordain” the OW advocates seek. Still, I think it would have been a fun touch.

    I will say that this particular post was not composed in a manner that would invite OW supporters to seriously consider key points. However the factual content was enlightening.

  33. IDIAT, if you take a listen to the 2 hour podcast Kate Kelly had with FMH a few weeks ago, I think that you would get your suspicion confirmed. She talked at length about how no one for OW had been disciplined and how they felt that they were on solid ground. Your comment also suggested something new to me that I had not previously considered. Some have speculated about what prompted Elder Oaks talk, but perhaps it was at least in part in response to inquiries coming in from stake presidents on this issue. OW has a training guide on their website that talks about strategies in dealing with local priesthood leadership, and framing this as an honest inquiry is suggested as a means of avoiding problems, and they provide a lot of historical and scriptural references to support this. Elder Oaks’ talk has effectively neutralized this, which explains why OW has not responded since then.

  34. Rameumptom, the intent of the post was simply to put things in the prospective of a potential OW convert. A lot of the harshness is in the quotes from Kate Kelly and Lori Winder themselves. They present themselves as a group that is “safe” for faithful members and my perspective is that they are not. This isn’t a group that has a simple question, this is a group that has an axe to grind, and has it as their goal to fundamentally transform the doctrine and practices of the Church from the ground up. They are seeking to spread the word, and unless they disappear in the manner suggested by Geoff (I’m less optimistic) then we’ll all end up grappling with these questions sooner or later. I think that we can be kind, but that kindness needs to be informed by an understanding of what the stated goals and gripes of this group actually are.

  35. “[Anyone] should understand when someone in authority tells you not to do something, doing it anyway is an act of insubordination.” Exactly

    When my children continue to refuse to obey a request I make of them, I am forced to up the ante with my discipline if I want to keep order in my house. This is the position some of these groups may be putting their leaders in. I hope it ends well, but I am concerned.

    Badgering is just another manipulation tactic. I don’t trust the spiritual judgment of someone who won’t take “no” for an answer.

  36. Dave said: “Yes, MD was trying to label people as apostates.” As Yoda said, “do, or do not, there is no try.” I either labelled them as apostates or I did not. If you go back and reread what I wrote, I didn’t label them as apostates. Instead, I provided quotes from two public figures that are available on their own website and provided the criteria set forth in the Handbook in determining whether or not someone is apostate. If you read what these two women have publicly stated and the definition of apostasy and came to the conclusion that I was labelling them as apostates, then maybe you’ve drawn your own conclusions. It would likely surprise you to know that I’m not sure that I would answer yes to each of the four questions I posed.

    Dave, you said “yes, he said apostates should be the subject of a disciplinary council.” IMHO, there is nothing controversial about my statements in regard to this particular topic. The Handbook merely says what it says. If you wish to argue that the Handbook shouldn’t be drafted in that way, that’s fair. If you wish to argue that local bishops shouldn’t be bound by some set of guidelines, go ahead. I am merely stated a fact, nothing more than that. In addition to that, it’s a fact that I think most people wouldn’t know. Apostasy is one of a short list in which disciplinary councils must be held. The rest are murder, child abuse, incest, “serious transgression while holding a prominent Church Position,” predatory transgressors, people with a pattern of serious transgressions and people who commit a serious transgression “that is widely known.”

    The requirement that a disciplinary counsel be held doesn’t prejudge what the outcome of that counsel must be. At worst, from your point of view, I’ve made a case for the requirement of a counsel, but I’ve said nothing regarding what the outcome of that counsel should be. I did not say that they should be ex’ed or disciplined, just that Church procedures require a counsel. If you interpreted the evidence presented as suggesting something additional, you might want to look at why you read that into the post.

    But let’s be entirely clear on something. These two public figures have come into the public realm and made these declarations for all to see. They have done so in an attempt to rally support to their cause and to influence the minds and thinking of all Latter-day Saints and to garner the support of sympathetic non-LDS allies. Not only this, but they have made these statement while making it a public issue that they have not been disciplined for doing so. In other words, I didn’t raise the issue of discipline … they did! We’re not arguing over how many angels can dance on a pin-head, we are discussing fundamental and foundational doctrines of the Restoration.

    I did not put them in the public eye. I did not reveal private communications. I did not dig into these two women beyond reading their own website. No one has been dragged kicking and screaming into the light. If I misquoted either of them, show me. Please explain to me how it is unethical to repeat the published statements of two public persons and consider the practical implications of their words? Please explain to me how it is improper to examine the public actions (they invited the press for crying out loud!) of two individuals and ask a simple question of whether or not those words and actions constitute apostasy?

  37. Dave wrote: “Geoff and Jeff, perhaps you are backtracking in the interest of calming the discussion. But let’s be honest: Yes, MD was trying to label people as apostates (see the snippy little Pop Quiz notes in the post); yes, he said apostates should be the subject of a disciplinary council (“According to the Handbook, your bishop and your stake president have no discretion in deciding whether to convene a disciplinary counsel if there is evidence of possible apostasy. They simply must do it.”), and yes he called people out by name in the post. It’s one thing to engage in the sort of back-and-forth discussions/arguments that sometimes happens in the Bloggernacle (that most of us take in stride) but calling people out by name and urging that they be exed or at least disciplined — really? I value M*’s conservative contribution to the Bloggernacle and have defended you in the past, but this is simply unethical (to the extent you acknowledge any ethical standard in public blog statements) and utterly improper (local leaders can look after their own poeple, thank you). If I were you I’d take down the post and issue an apology.”

    Dave, I think you are 1)projecting a bit here and 2)have spent way, way, WAY too much time on the internet and not enough time around actual latter-day Saints in your ward and stake and 3)are playing the typical bloggernacle game of “let’s attack the person who wrote the post rather than discuss the issue at hand.”

    Let’s discuss 1) first. Your first line of attack was to use the time-honored tradition of attacking Michael for being “self-righteous.” When I rightly pointed out that this was exactly what you were doing (being self-righteous yourself), you gave up that line and are now saying “unethical” because perhaps you are seeing that your attack in the first place (“Michael is self-righteous”) didn’t really stick. So now you are claiming it is unethical to even have a discussion! Sorry, Dave, I think you know this will fail also and perhaps you feel a bit unethical yourself for trying the old standby of “you are being self-righteous” and being called out on it. I am seeing some signs of “complete desperation” in your argument because it is failing miserably.

    2)Dave, I say this from the bottom of my heart. I have been reading your blog for many years now, and you are spending way too much time on the internet and not enough time around actual Latter-day Saints. If you had spent more time around actual people you would recognize that anybody who hears about the OW movement saying, (if they care about it), “why haven’t those people been up for Church discipline?” It is only the insulated echo chamber types in the Mormon blog world who don’t have this reaction. So, as usual on M*, we are dealing with real-world issues rather than the hot-button issues of the various pseudo-intellectuals, failed educators and lawyers in the Mormon blog world. Yes, we will see things differently, and that is kind of the point.

    3)You apparently forget that I am a long-time veteran of the Mormon blog world and know all of the Bloggernacle tricks, including that old favorite “Let’s attack the writer and the entire blog itself rather than deal with the issues he/she raises!!” Sorry, this trick will not work on this post. If you would like to continue to comment here, please address Michael’s points. Here is a suggestion: why don’t you show why KK should not be subject to Church discipline and make a cogent, reasoned argument? I think you could actually convince me because, personally, I don’t think there is much to worry about with KK and the OW movement going from house to house trying to find converts.

  38. Dave,

    It’s not that I necessarily think you are misreading Michael. Rather, I think this post is somewhat ambiguous in that it can be interpreted either way. I think charity in interpretation (something of which there is precious little on both sides of the OW debate) dictates that we work with my interpretation over yours though. Not only does it make his position stronger, but it does not serve to change the subject like yours does.

  39. Yes, I realize that charity in interpretation is probably not Michael’s strong point either, but that shouldn’t excuse us as we interpret him.

  40. I agree with Meg above. Elder Oaks gave the local authorities clarity in addressing this issue. Radical public advocacy, which a few in OW are approaching, is probably going to lead to pointed discussions with local church leaders. Sincere questioning, which is what I think most OW supporters are primarily concerned with, is going to be OK and not lead to discipline.
    Just my 1/50th of a dollar.

  41. These arguments have been going on for 30 or so years, ever since so-called reformers have pushed for female ordination in the mainstream Christian denominations.

    “Equality! Equality!” How can anyone be against EQUALITY? But equality between different things demands that different things be treated as if they are the same thing, even when they are NOT the same things. The result is destruction.

    What has happened as progressives have taken over institutions? The answer is: destruction. What has happened to denominations that have ordained women and taken on progressive agendas? They are withering. They are in the process of being destroyed. Many, such as the Church of England, are a mere caricature of their former selves.

    If you want to see where OW and other progressives want to take the church, you only have to look at other denominations that have ordained women and taken on other progressive attributes.

    I hope people are not taken in by the claims of progressives that they *only* want female ordination. That is only a strategic tactic of the moment. Progressives not only disbelieve in Christianity, they *hate* Christianity.

    Witting or unwitting, those who want to “reform” churches with a progressive agenda are in effect working to *destroy* churches.

    Further evidence of this intent on destruction is that those at the core of the “reform” movement in Mormonism (OW and John Dehlin) are active disbelievers themselves. Hello? Do you really think active disbelivers have the best interests of the Kingdom or church in mind?

    This is uncannily like the Democrats telling the Republicans: “If you don’t do XYZ you’ll never win elections, or you’ll lose the independents.” As if the democrats want the republicans to win elections.

  42. I know as disciples of Christ we are to love and accept everyone, faults and all, so it is very difficult to label actions of others as anything negative. That being said, although we are not to take it upon ourselves to judge others, we must judge between right and wrong. This tiny handful of people (less than .001% of the church in their largest gathering, IF they are honest in their declaration they are in fact members of the church) are in open public opposition to the church. In Michael’s narrative above about the interaction he has had with these people, a few things stuck out like a sore thumb:
    1. Although claiming to be “faithful members of the church” they come out and accuse the church and it’s leaders of deep-seeded prejudice and misogyny. You cannot in one breath claim you believe in the tenets of our faith and in the next paint them as misguided and wrong. They are claiming that church leadership (past and present) has altered doctrine to be in accordance with past prejudice. But if the church were to succumb to pressure and alter doctrine based on current public opinion would’t that be the same?
    2. The arguments from O.W. center around “empowering experiences” for women. They clearly do not understand the priesthood and it’s purpose. The priesthood is not for empowering anyone. The power and authority of the priesthood is not for the lifting up of an individual, but rather it is for service and for edifying the church and it’s membership. Every priesthood ordinance or duty performed is in service for the recipient of that act, and anyone performing priesthood duties for their own empowerment is in serious need for reflection.
    3. They want the Church leadership to alter revelation from God on the government of His Church. If leadership succumbed to such pressure, it would no longer be God’s church; rather it would be man’s church (or womyn’s church). In the very moment the Church attempts to preserve its authority (in the minds of a tiny number of people) it would in fact be forfeiting that same authority by denying the authority of God.

    These points scream out to me that this group either consists of those who either are not members of the Church (anymore?), or are Mormons in name only and have little or no understanding of the gospel. If they are members, they should come to the understanding that the Church does not need them, and if they believe they have more light and knowledge than the Apostles of Christ, they are more than welcome to start their own congregation.

  43. Also, the entire argument can be decided with one question:

    Would you be willing to accept that only men may be ordained in the priesthood if God revealed it to you?

    If your answer is No, then perhaps a belief in a higher power is not for you.

    If your answer is Yes, then it really boils down to whether you believe the Church is true or not. If you believe the Church is true, you willing be willing to accept on faith that the tenets of the Church are true, including the priesthood, until you gain a personal testimony of each. If not, then perhaps the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not for you.

  44. To those who are in some way offended by this post, I would sincerely ask:

    How would you recognize actual apostasy? Assuming, [i]arguendo[/i], that OW’s activities to date do [b]not[/b] constitute apostasy–what would?

    And, do you believe the Church has any business using the disciplinary process to respond to “apostates”?

  45. Michael, the reasons publicly speculating about some else’s apostasy and encouraging their local leaders to take formal disciplinary action against them is wrong is because (1) bishops take care of that function responsibly and confidentially for their own flock; those who volunteer their services to make such judgments (as you are doing) generally do so irresponsibly; and (2) such public speculation amounts to unwelcome and damaging gossip about another’s righteousness or lack thereof.

    Geoff, it’s not for me to convince you or anyone else whether any OW officer or advocate ought or ought not to be subject to discipline. I’m happy to leave that to their local leaders. The point is for us to *not* speculate or encourage that sort of activity. To disagree with OW’s view of doctrine or their goals or their asking for tickets to watch the broadcast in the Tabernacle, fine. It’s a free country. “You are wrong about X” is a fundamentally different statement than “You should be expelled from the Church for apostasy.”

    Jeff G., if I am misinterpreting MD, he can clarify. Pixels are cheap.

    Rameumptom in an earlier comment above seems to have stated my position more gently and more accurately that I did.

  46. El oso – you’re probably right and I don’t disagree with anything you said.

    Dave – Go back and reread the post perhaps. I wasn’t telling any local leaders what to do, I was merely telling the readers of the entry what the Handbook requires of local leaders. If anyone is telling local leaders what to do, it’s the brethren of the First Presidency and 12 who adopted the Handbook and sent it out to guide the administration of the Church. As to any speculation and gossip, I tried to focus on the ideas being presented, because those are the things I have an issue with, and those are the things that are ultimately damaging to the faith of individuals. I played with the idea of not including any personally identifiable information, but I thought that if I was quoting individuals who are saying these things in public that I should attribute them, at least somewhat. Again, I don’t know Kate Kelly. She might be a wonderful person. I simply don’t know. All I have looked at is her public utterances, and then, only on a specific topic. Because she and several of the members of OW have been publicly arguing for changes in doctrine, practice and culture, these ideas are clearly appropriate for discussion.

    The biggest question that I hoped people would ask, and the reason I think that this discussion is important in the first instance, is simply this: If I am persuaded by the arguments of OW, and adopt them and beginning participating in their cause, will I be in apostasy? In order to answer that question, I needed to identify how the Church defines apostasy … and while I was doing that, I informed the reader about the mandatory language of the Handbook regarding disciplinary counsels. To quote myself, I wrote:

    “According to the Handbook, your bishop and your stake president have no discretion in deciding whether to convene a disciplinary counsel if there is evidence of possible apostasy. They simply must do it. As a result, it is therefore pretty important to be careful to stay on this side of the apostasy line if you don’t want to end up in a disciplinary counsel.”

    This was not a call to ex Kate Kelly. Instead this was a cautionary note to the reader to help inform them should they feel tempted to stray from the established and accepted doctrines of the Church.

    As for “encouraging that sort of activity,” my encouragement to any bishop or stake president would be the same as my encouragement to myself. We should all follow the counsel of the brethren.

  47. Joey – Thanks for your comment. We should talk more, we are cousins after all.

    Bookslinger – It might be a bit much to broadly label the women of OW as disbelievers on the existing evidence, but there is ample evidence that many of them identify themselves as such. Many more of them certainly could be classified as believing different things than the run-of-the-mill active member of your ward.

    And you are right about their goals. I’ve read it all, and to most ordination is simply a means to an end. The real gripe is with the doctrines of the church and the emphasis on motherhood to the exclusion of careers and other life goals. They anticipate that if women are ordained and installed into every level of church leadership, that there would be changes to church doctrine and practice. I would say that a full 75%, and probably more, of the profiles on focus primarily on moving the Church away from the message that being a mother is the highest calling of a women, the implications of which would probably be worthy of a series of posts.

    And this hits home for me pretty strongly. My Mother was at the University of Utah in the early 70s and had been accepted into the medical school. She had always dreamed of being a doctor and had been very upset that people in the Church had discouraged her from that goal while encouraging her to be a mother. She was OW’s target audience. But, fortunately for me and my siblings, she decided to pray about her future. The answer she received was that she could go to medical school and be a great doctor, but that she wouldn’t be the mother she could be or serve in the Church the way she could if she made that choice. So she didn’t go to medical school.

    Many in the OW crowd would see this as a travesty. They would see it as the Church standing in the way of my Mother’s life long dream. I see it differently. I grew up in a home where my Mother was there to teach me gospel principles by word and deed. I grew up in a home, that was admitted not perfect, but it was a lot closer to being perfect than the one I would have had if my Mom had also been a doctor.

    Where this hits home is this; if my Mom had grown up in the Church as envisioned by OW, with doctrines and practices reshaped in the image of their philosophies, my Mother would never have asked that question. My siblings and I would have been worse for it. Some of my siblings would likely never have been born. (I was the first, and relatively safe, but who knows.) Even more than that, though, is my Mother tells me that she is glad for the decision, though it was hard at the time. She sees the wisdom in it.

  48. For those of you interested, OW released some “statistics” about the people who participated in the march on Temple Square. You can read their findings here:

    You’ll notice that they got responses from 240 “participants” although only 110 of them actually participated in the march. Another 58 were on proxy cards, while the others participated in some other way. There’s no description of the methodology of the survey, and there’s considerable risk of selection bias. Even though, there’s some interesting admissions.

    First, OW claims that 89% of the respondents haven’t “experienced any difficulty with Church leaders as a result of supporting Ordain Women.” This means 11% (about 26 individuals) have experienced difficulty with Church leaders as a result of supporting Ordain Women. This may be the most interesting piece of information in the report. It’s unclear to me how this number may have been influenced by selection bias. Are OW supporters more or less likely to report local problems with leaders? Are OW supporters more or less likely to participate in the survey if they have had problems?

    I don’t know the answers to this. I do know that this is an surprising admission by OW.

  49. h_nu wrote: I think somewhere in the scriptures there’s a saying about the wicket and how they tend to take things… RAM? Do you agree?

    While scripture does say the wicked take the truth to be hard, it also says that the Lord seeks out the lost sheep and leaves the 99 strong in the fold. I am not convinced that Kate Kelley is an apostate. I definitely disagree with her actions and methods as being disruptive, but that does not mean she is an apostate. I suppose that is a very fine line at times. Again, it is for ecclesiastical leaders to determine, and not us. What we can agree upon is what Church spokespersons have said: marching onto Temple Square during General Conference is disruptive and discouraged.

    Michael: I think most members in the USA (and including in Utah/California/Idaho where the Mormon corridor is at) most active LDS have already made up their mind to support the Brethren, and not Ordain Women. They are just a small group, and as other posts have noted, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Many LDS blogs are noting how they disagree with their issues. Fiona Givens, Ardis Parshall and others have noted their support for the Church’s stance. The voice against is bigger than the voice for OW. Even among those who would want a woman’s ordination, there is disagreement on the tactics being used by OW, or if that ordination should be exactly like man’s priesthood.

    Eventually, the members of OW will see that their current tactics are not working, and they will have to choose to either change their tactics to something akin to the Genesis Group (blacks receiving the priesthood), which was fully supported by Church leadership; or take harsher stances which may place them in danger of apostasy as it would require fully defiant stances against the Brethren and Church. I really don’t think they will go that far. This organization will remain small and eventually fade, probably without anyone losing their membership in the Church.

  50. Ram: I hope you’re right. The fact that none of the spokeswomen for OW has even addressed Elder Oaks talk in a public way (that I’ve seen) makes me think that some of them are taking a time out to catch their breathe and evaluate what they are really trying to do.

  51. One thing that we are forgetting is that everything is subject to the spirit (the handbook itself says so). The spirit of God is the will of God and should be followed at all times. In general the above hypotheticals might call for a disciplinary council, however, the church and its leaders are guided by the spirit. The Lord is known for his mercy, long-suffering and patience. Why shouldn’t we feel the same way? Too often we cast the first stone when we are in our own apostate world. None of us are perfect. I can not nor do I ever hope to imagine the weight a Bishop has on his shoulders to judge in Israel. Too often we see disciplinary councils as punishments. They are meant to draw the individual closer to Christ and to show mercy. Punishment for the sake of punishment follows in the path of Satan who is the great accuser. We are to take upon ourself Christ’s name which is our advocate before the Father. Should we not also be advocates for those around us? To clarify I am not saying I am in agreement with the O.W. movement, but perhaps we should attempt to teach them the correct way, out of love, ( which is the path I believe the leaders of the church are traveling at the moment) rather than punish them immediately. If we were to act so rashly we risk alienating more members of the church as well as creating life long enemies. The church has enough enemies. When the time is right and all other avenues have been explored, I’m confident that disciplinary councils will occur, but they will be acts of mercy, not punishments. This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we welcome all into our fold even those who are confused, lost or frustrated. Love, not punishment will pave the way to new understanding.

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