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.

I am reminded of the
story of WW Phelps. Quoting liberally from a speech by then-BYU President
Jeffrey R. Holland:

In the early years of the Church the Prophet Joseph Smith had no more
faithful aide than William Wines Phelps…But then troubles developed…Things
became so serious that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that if Phelps did
not repent, he would be “removed out of [his] place” (HC 2:511). He did not
repent and was excommunicated on March 10, 1838… in the fall of that violent
year W. W. Phelps, along with others, signed a deadly, damaging affidavit
against the Prophet and other leaders of the Church.
The result was quite simply that Joseph Smith was sentenced to be publicly
executed on the town square in Far West, Missouri, Friday morning, November
2, 1838. Two very difficult years later, with great anguish and remorse of
conscience, Phelps wrote to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo.
Brother Joseph: . . . I am as the prodigal son. . . .
I have seen the folly of my way, and I tremble at the gulf I have
passed. . . . [I] ask my old brethren to forgive me, and though they chasten
me to death, yet I will die with them, for their God is my God.
The least place with them is enough for me, yea, it is bigger and better
than all Babylon. . . .
I know my situation, you know it, and God knows it, and I want to be saved
if my friends will help me. . . . I have done wrong and I am sorry. . . .
I ask forgiveness. . . . I want your fellowship; if you cannot grant that,
grant me your peace and friendship, for we are brethren, and our communion
used to be sweet.
In an instant the Prophet wrote back…having been delivered from the hands of
wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be
delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of
God’s dear children, and again take your stand among the Saints of the Most
High, and by diligence, humility, and love unfeigned, commend yourself to
our God, and your God, and to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall
be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice
over the returning prodigal.
“Come on, dear brother, since the war is past,
For friends at first, are friends again at last.”
Yours as ever,
Joseph Smith, Jun. (A Robe, a Ring, and a Fatted Calf; January 31,

Brother Phelps would not returned without the tough love of excommunication.
It allowed him to get space from the situation, to see what he was missing,
and to search himself – without covenants hanging over his head. If Bro.
Dehlin and Sis. Kelly are indeed excommunicated, I would propose that that’s
precisely what the Lord believes they need.

2. Doubts aren’t the problem. I have listened to Mr. Dehlin and Ms. Kelly
say that they are being punished for their doubts. That’s not the case.
These Bishops and Stake Presidents who have convened their disciplinary
councils have certainly had their own crises of faith. Instead, the problem
is the way they have expressed those doubts. They have done so publicly, in
a way that demands everyone look at them. In this day and age we all “get
caught up in popularity contests and experience anxieties…becoming depressed
because [we] are being out-Twittered and lacking in thumbs ups.” (Bill
Davidow, The Atlantic) If they had expressed their doubts and concerns
privately, talking with their Bishops and Stake Presidents on a regular
basis, working things through with trusted friends and advisors, and praying
privately to the Lord for help and guidance (and for His help when the
answers they received weren’t what they originally thought they should be),
then none of this would have happened. It is when we put ourselves into a
position where we can lead others astray, when we cause others to question
and lose their testimonies (regardless of how well-intentioned we may be),
that our earnest seeking can become something else.

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday, Sis. Kelly mentioned
that they just wanted an answer. That would be all well and good if that
were the case, but at some point we have to accept the answer we’ve been
given. The LDS Church has come out time and time and time again to say that
women will not be given the priesthood at this time. That’s not to say that
it won’t happen in the future – I’m not the Lord, nor do I pretend to know
His will. I know those who made a pronouncement that blacks would never
receive the priesthood in the 1950s looked like quite the fools in 1978.
What I do know is that the answer won’t change in 6 months and it won’t
change in a year. If these brothers and sisters truly feel that women should
be ordained, the course that I would recommend is to faithfully continue
with the church, to express your desires privately to your leaders, and to
sustain the leaders of the church.

39 thoughts on “Some thoughts on excommunication

  1. It’s getting tougher to read the so called LDS themed blogs because of the hysteria. How dare any church leader even think of disciplining Dehlin or Kelly for their faithful questioning of church doctrine or principles. MoFem’s and every person who has an ax to grind because they have been offended at one time or another has made this a cause celebre. Some of our members on the bloggernacle would walk on water for Dehlin or Kelly, but wouldn’t grab a bucket of water if they saw one of the FP/Q12 on fire.

  2. IDIAT, the history of Christ’s church has always been that there are events, sometimes occurring every month, that challenge the faith of members. During these times, the only safe course is: “follow the prophets.” We are lucky that in our day we have prophets who help us find the correct course. We live in especially trying times.

  3. I’m not so sure that excommunication really does anything about those covenants hanging over our heads:

    D&C 84:40-42

    “Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.

    “But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and alttogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.

    “And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.”

    Sounds like everyone is held accountable, forever, whether you obtain the priesthood and then turn from it, or fail to ever receive it in the first place.

    Maybe they’ll see the error of their ways and repent and return, but the scriptures make it clear that excommunication and the loss of the covenant relationship, in the Grand Eternal Scheme Of Things doesn’t get you off of the hook for anything.

  4. JD and KK say they love the church and they wish the church wouldn’t do this. The ‘Nacle thinks this is some great tragedy that these two might be exed. My question is: What exactly is it you love about the church? In JD’s case, it’s obviously not the teachings because he doesn’t believe in them. It’s obviously not how the church treats LGBT, minorities, poor, etc. because according to the JD and the ‘Nacle the church has an atrocious track record on these matters, continuing even to this day.

    Based on what I’ve read over the years they don’t love the church because of the 3 hour block, or the doofus, r@cist, whatever-phobic GD teachers. Nor do they love the wingnut comments that fly in Priesthood and Relief Society. OK, maybe they love the temple? No, that place is sexist because of how Eve is portrayed and some other things I won’t mention.

    Alright, alright, I got it. They love the prophets and apostles! Wait, they are just old men who need to get with the times. They know nothing about the trials LGBT face and they are jerks to the feminists. Except Uchtdorf. He’s cool I guess.

    Do they love the church materials perhaps (Ensign, Friend, curriculum, etc.)? No, the Ensign is just boilerplate claptrap, watered down to the lowest common denominator. The Friend can’t even name the prophets’ mothers for crying out loud. Curriculum is focus group nonsense put together by the evil Correlation Committee.

    Maybe the scouts are what they love? No because they get waaaaay more money than Young Women and they don’t allow LGBT leaders. Eagle ceremonies are “Ward Events” whereas YW awards are sacrament meeting afterthoughts.

    Speaking of, they must love Young Women! Guess again. YW is nothing more than a De-Programming Youth camp for girls to be taught that they should want to marry a RM who honors his priesthood. Also, the modesty lessons taught in YW are borderline criminal.

    Perhaps the RS is the saving grace? Well, isn’t that just about bragging how many kids you have and how perfect they are…and judging your ugly, sinful neighbors?

    So I’m curious what it is exactly about the church that they love? Sometimes they’ll mention the ‘culture’ but that’s pretty ambiguous.

    The bottom line is they claim to love the church, but when something happens they don’t like we get a litany of things that are wrong with the church and how it is a culture of intimidation and greed and oppression. If that is truly the case, what is so tragic about being severed from this swamp?

    All that is not to say we should want people to leave or wish them ill. Quite the opposite in fact. We should hope they stay and look past the warts and foibles and see the miraculous work in the church.

  5. Ben Johnson, they don’t call it the Murmurnacle for nuthin’!

    But more seriously, I think even our most heterodox members have things about the Church they like. The problem is that they concentrate so much energy on the things they don’t like that it is difficult to see the things they like. But in unguarded moments they will talk about special experiences with the Spirit and special people they have met who have had positive influences on them.

    I kind of see it this way: one person can walk into a Sacrament meeting and see nice families, friendly people, helpful young men handing out programs, helpful older siblings helping their parents with the younger kids, smiling older couples appreciating the young parents, and a caring bishopric. Another person can walk into the exact same Sacrament meeting and wonder why all the men are dressed the same, why there are not more people of color, why the young women do not get to help out more in Sacrament, why so many young mothers look depressed and overwhelmed with all their kids and why once again the all-male patriarchy is sitting up on the stand in a regal posture. Same meeting, same setting, two different reactions. And by the way, the person with the negative reaction may have some points (yes, the YW should be more integrated in helping set up Sacrament), but the point is: why go through life only seeing the negative? It seems absolutely exhausting to me.

  6. I realize my comment above was not only clunky but somewhat of a threadjack. This one will be as well. I’ve read the Bloggernacle for as long as I can remember. I even occasionally write for one of the smaller joints (MMM), but I swear I’ve seen a shift over the years from mostly positive/neutral to mostly negative/complaining. BCC used to run some real gems, like “On the sweetness of Mormon life” and the explications on the priesthood by WVS. I know it’s the coin of the realm now and you have to move traffic, but all I ever see is how the church is inept at A, B and C. It’s tiresome.
    In fact, I had given up the ‘Nacle for two whole weeks before my brother sent me a link to the story about KK and JD being called to stand tall before The Man. As Al Pacino says, “As soon as I get out they pull me back in…”

  7. This too will pass. The average member has no idea who KK and JD are, and they will not know who they are a year from now or 10 years from now. Almost nobody in my ward has even heard of OW. I asked my wife (active all her life, intellectual, went on a mission) if she knew who the “September Six” were, and she had no idea. The Bloggernacle world is incredibly small and plays almost no role in the life of the average Mormon. The Church is growing in Africa, Latin America, Asia. It is accomplishing amazing things. So, let the drama play out with the usual suspects claiming we are creating martyrs (really?!!?) and worrying about micro-aggressions (huh?). The Church will roll on to fill the whole Earth regardless of the yammerings of all of us little people.

  8. Tempests in teapots, self importance, pride and a blindness to the reality most of us face seem to characterize the ‘anti-bloggers and their vocal supporters. For me their greatest negative outcome is the energy wasted on futile pursuits. A positive effect is the resistance training they give my mind and spirit.

  9. Geoff:

    “micro-aggressions” n.
    1/1,000,000 of an aggression. This means that the average person, committing 42 micro-aggressions a day, will be responsible for one actual aggression over the course of a lifetime.

  10. I suppose it is a waste of time to point out that it takes two people to make an aggression or even a micro-aggression. One person to do the supposed aggressing and the other person to perceive it that way. If the other person never perceives it that way, then — YAY! — an aggression never took place. See talks at Conference about making the decision not to be offended.

  11. If there are members or former members of my ward under church discipline, I am not aware of it. Which it strikes me is as it should be.

    These two spotlight-seekers were setting themselves apart from the church long before this month’s notification. I take no joy in their circumstance, and I won’t predict the outcome, but I’m not surprised it reached this point. The Book of Mormon provided a preview – Alma in particular. Even as they defend themselves in that Trib Talk interview, they cast into question the existence of God and dispute the legitimacy of the leaders who have stewardship over them.

  12. There is another aspect to Church discipline that seems not to be considered here. It is the responsibility of Church leaders to look after the membership as a whole and guard everyone from dissent and teaching of false doctrine. The strongest measure the Church has available is to terminate the membership of apostates. This does not curtail freedom of speech, people can still say whatever they please about the Church or anything else, but the Church cannot permit them to publicaly teach ideas that are judged to be contrary to the established teaching and doctrines of the Church, and expect to continue as members. Church leaders responsibility is to guard and protect the purity of the doctrines of the Church from being compromised by those who think their own personal opinions are more valuable than belonging to the Church.

  13. There is an interesting story in the Old Testament that seems relevant here, Numbers 11-12. The tribes of Israel complained to Moses that they missed eating meat from Egypt, and were tired of Manna. In response the Lord sent them flocks of birds that were infected with plague and many died. Even Moses’ brother and sister complained about Moses. The Lord replied that to some he spoke in dark dreams and visions, but to Moses he conversed openly face to face. Miriam was afflicted with leprosy as punishment for her murmuring.

    Church discipline was not always so mild as things like disfellowship or excommunication. Not that I believe this would happen, or that I hold any ill will toward any of these people, but it might be interesting to see the media reaction if dissenters contracted leprosy.

  14. If Kate is “caring for an sick family member” who surely has someone who could care for this person for ONE DAY while she attends the council. Kate’s parents live in Provo. They surely can step in as she isn’t a primary care giver, right? I say her supporters put together a fund and get her out there. Her bishop said they would work with her! They can be flexible and I imagine they could even get the funds in two seconds to fly her out there. Kate, we will PAY for you to go out there if you simply cannot afford it.

    Come on supporters, get a little fund going and help her attend her meeting with her Bishopric. Why not? Why can’t she hop over there. It’s not a long flight. Four hours from SLC to Dulles. She can make it in one day and could stay at a friends house overnight. It’s totally possible and easy. Gather up some people to help make this happen.

    Otherwise, it’s pretty obvious that her “caring for a sick family member” and “not having money” is a pretty thin smokescreen.

  15. Good points. But I wonder: why only them? There were a lot of women front & center at that conference session. If you look around the bloggernacle there are lots of people—–not sheep!—who agree with John and Alan. Steve Young? I think they just want to warn the rest of us to shut up.

  16. If I were a bishop with someone in my congregation that appeared to be teetering on the edge of apostasy by actively affiliating with a movement teaching against the Church, I might wish to wait and see how things proceeded with the leader of that movement before calling my own congregant in for formal counseling.

    Or I might be inspired to call in my own congregant independent of other events. However if my congregant isn’t the leader of the organization, why would anyone care about what I did to counsel the individual under my stewardship?

    The atmosphere during the September Six timeframe was much more daunting. And as I actively posted my thoughts, I imagined the possibility that my writings might be compiled in some folder in Salt Lake. Now twenty years later, I kind of wish there were some “Meg Stout” or “mormon-l” file in Salt Lake, because I’ve lost access to a lot of those writings and conversations. Good times arguing with Arden Eby and Bob Woolley and Perry Porter and the rest on mormon-l.

    Dear Annegb, if you aren’t sure what subtle messages the leadership of the Church might be attempting to waft in your direction, why not sit down with your Relief Society president or one of her counselors you trust and chat with her about it?

  17. ” If you look around the bloggernacle there are lots of people—–not sheep!—who agree with John and Alan”

    This point is rather irrelevant. The Church continues to point out that you can believe what you wish. But when you go out and campaign and seek to lead folks astray actively, that’s where you cross the line.

  18. “But I wonder: why only them?”

    We do not know if it is just only them. The Church does not publicize who it invites to participate in disciplinary councils, nor should it. Unless the invitee seeks to advertise it, there is no way of knowing. Not all invitees seek the limelight. I am not saying that it is not only them, we simply do not know either way. Frankly, I had no need to know about KK or JD, nor do I about anyone else. If others have been invited and choose to keep it private, it is well within their agency to do so and we rightly should not know as this invitation is a private matter. Should they choose to make it public, it is also their choice. I can think of circumstances where both choices could be easily justified to a given individual.

  19. Annegb asked “Why only them?”

    It is not only KK who has received a letter. An OW sister in my ward was placed on probation last week and has been invited to a disciplinary council on the grounds of apostasy. I know this because like KK, she has publicized it–she emailed the ward and posted the information on Facebook. This sister proselytizes for OW (setting up OW discussion groups, etc.) and has publicly written her view that women’s ordination is not negotiable. It has grieved many of those in the ward who love her, myself included.

    For those who will see conspiracy in the timing, this sister lost her temple recommend shortly after she initiated public acts to draw others away from the church. She began proselytizing for OW in the middle of May and publicly writing against the church beginning at the end of May (not just asking questions), and she lost her temple recommend at the beginning of June. The timing of her probation and invitation to a church disciplinary council appears related to the timing of her actions.

    I suppose that we may soon see a New York Times article telling us that many OW members were called to church discipline around the same time. I would say that while OW profiles came in over the course of many months, they began proselytizing at the same time. OW members may cite the delayed initiation of church discipline relative to their profile postings, but I do not think the profiles are the problem. I think the attempt to lead others astray is when they crossed the line, and that happened around the same time, so I would expect church discipline to begin around the same time for the OW members who engaged in actively leading people into the mist.

  20. Hi Annie,

    Thank you for that insight into the circumstances of the individual in your ward who has put herself in a place where probation has occurred and excommunication is a possibility.

    I know there are some who have bristled at Bruce Nielson’s challenge to Ms. Kelly regarding her belief in the truth claims of the Church, as well as his observation that John Dehlin has openly denied belief in those truth claims. However at the end of the day it is disingenuous for folks to claim to be bettering the Church by external attacks when they won’t even confess belief in the legitimacy of the Church.

  21. Indeed. My friend claims that KK is faithful, but I find that very, very hard to believe. Certainly her habit of shaming the church does little toward promoting an image of faith, at least to members of the Church, but I suppose that outsiders would believe she is faithful just based on her 1950’s appearance.

    I had no issue with Bruce’s line of questioning. In fact, I applauded it. My family thought I was crazy, clapping at the screen and screaming, “Answer him! If you believe the priesthood was restored by God, say so!” Then I took three laps around the room and had a cookie.

    Placing herself in the public eye and stridently proclaiming some of her beliefs (and having the New York Times proclaim them for her), while refusing to share other beliefs.. disingenuous was a kind word.

    If we think about this: KK loves to tell what she thinks and believes. She loves to tell it on her website and on Reuters. And she is a lawyer, which gives her Jedi-level skills in using language to make you think something without actually saying it. For example, saying faithful member. One could assume faith from this, but it does not actually mean that. My friend uses the OW talking point that most of their members are “active, tithe-paying members of the church.” This does not even imply faith. I think that if KK had a testimony, it would be part of her proclamations.

    But when we look at her reaction to church discipline and the strongly anti-church sentiments on the candlelight vigil action page of OW, I think she has told us exactly how she feels about the Church.

  22. Great comments, all.
    1. Among Book of Mormon people, who had the most devastating effect on the faithful? The dissenters. Forgetting the fact that the Lamanites started with the dissent of two sons of a prophet, generations later it was often Nephite dissenters who brought contention within or incited the Lamanites to attack and destroy the “more righteous part of the people”, aka the Church. Note that the “more righteous part of the people” was never labeled “the perfect ones”.
    2. As Geoff said, the Church is growing around the world, and if anyone has met new members or investigators ready for baptism, you can tell them about any “issues” with polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the Mountain Meadows massacre, etc., they will have this glow about them, smile at you and bear witness that Thomas Monson is a prophet, that Joseph Smith and his successors were, and that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God. And if they read about this controversy online, as a member say in Nigeria could, they would–like most of us posting on M*–remain faithful.
    3. Any organization has the right to ask people who criticize its tenets to leave. Church disciplinary councils do it in the most Christlike and honest way possible. God’s ways HAVE to be firm, honest, clear cut, yet with a way to repent and return. The Laws of Justice and Mercy both satisfied, this only made possible through the infinite Atonement of a mediator Messiah.
    4. We have seen the words “inclusive/inclusiveness” and “diversity” so misused lately. There is a difference between corrupting something that is supposed to remain pure, like pure water in an experiment or a covenant based on a clearly outlined doctrine, and being inclusive or accepting racial/cultural diversity in our daily lives. Letting the wolf of genderlessness and sexual impurity into the barn in the name of inclusiveness and diversity is foolish, and in the case of a bad wolf unacceptable.

  23. This is a response I wrote to another blog that I wanted to share here as well:

    For my entire life I could see that there was inequality in the way men and women are treated in the church. I still see it today. However, despite this, I do have a testimony of Jesus Christ and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church on the earth today which provides us the ordinances and teachings we need to return to live with Him someday. I believe in His prophets and his leaders He has provided locally. I have not always agreed with the leaders, but realize the Lord’s ways are not my ways, nor is his timing my timing.
    Something I read in Arrington’s biography of Brigham Young has really resonated with me throughout the years. I don’t have exact quotes right now, but basically, in Ohio when things were going financially haywire, Brigham basically felt like he wouldn’t do things the way Joseph was doing things. But, Brigham said that Joseph was the prophet and if he was wrong, he would have to answer to God for it, and that was between God and Joseph. It was Brigham’s work to follow the prophet and to expect the blessings from that obedience.
    This gave me comfort because I was able to reconcile my feelings with a leader being wrong, but still being able to support him as a leader. It was still difficult at times. As time has passed, I have developed some ideas of why things were perpetuated that I didn’t see as right. I later had affirmation that what I thought was correct, but because of certain situations, things were allowed to happen which ultimately helped to bring about needed change
    Now, to be crystal clear, I am not talking about allowing any abuse or mistreatment of any kind.
    But, I went through questioning “how can this church be true when this is what ‘inspired’ leaders are doing?” Finding that experience of Brigham Young really helped me see how my feelings and the leadership of the church could, in fact, coexist.
    I don’t pretend to think I know what The Lord has in mind for women having the priesthood ultimately. I know that many polygamists never thought that would end. Many felt blacks would never receive the priesthood.
    I have learned in my years, that my pride in thinking I know best, has always come out in me having to admit I didn’t know it all. Inherent in the belief in God or a higher power is the understanding that He knows more than I do.
    I believe that for those who believe strongly in their hearts that women should have the priesthood or some other change, I believe that it is OK to express those feelings and concerns to friends, ask questions of local leaders, and perhaps write to express your concern to the Brethren. I do believe that demanding change or to say that nothing short of women receiving the priesthood is acceptable is to show a lack of faith in our Father in Heaven’s plan and His timing. I believe, as I think many here believe, that the culture of our church has some imperfections associated with living in a culture of imperfect people. That God allows some of those imperfections to continue, does not mean that He or His doctrine is imperfect.
    This church has the truth and the ordinances we need to be with our Father in Heaven and our families again. When we publicly focus on it’s perceived imperfections, I think it can endanger us and many others into giving up much good in the name of trying to be right (which in eternal time, perhaps we may be)
    I am grateful for the bloggernacle, as it has expanded my horizons and through the years I have been able to answer some questions and eventually find that some things that appeared to be mutually exclusive could actually both fit into the realm of truth and I am continuing to study to find how all the truths fit together. I find it beautiful.

  24. Great points, Laurent, particularly #4. In the war of words, actual meanings are tossed to the wayside.

    The point that the Church has the right and responsibility to decide who can join and remain in the Church. Can you imagine if a Hasidic Jew went around testifying that Jesus is the Messiah, trying to get other Jews to follow him and to preach this to their friends? And if he went to the media about it, saying that the community was violating his rights by saying that he could not enter the synagogue?

  25. “I don’t pretend to think I know what The Lord has in mind for women having the priesthood ultimately. I know that many polygamists never thought that would end. Many felt blacks would never receive the priesthood.”

    It’s worth pointing out that it was never taught that blacks would “never” receive the priesthood. It was a “long-promised day” that President Tanner spoke of when he read the Official Declaration 2 in General Conference in 1978. That “long-promised day” was really what it said it was: blacks had been promised that at some future day they would receive the blessings of priesthood. It was just a matter of apprehending the timing involved.

    Of course, none of us know if the Lord has something special in mind, some innovation with respect to His daughters as the dispensation of the fulness of times continues on toward its destiny. It’s possible He does. But if He chooses to give priesthood offices to His daughters, it would be a complete break from all scriptural, doctrinal, and historical precedent. At least with blacks and the priesthood, there were all three precedents.

    In short, I sort of experience a kind of fatigue when these two issues are brought up together as if one would be the same as the other. The two issues are completely difference and bear little resemblance to each other.

    This statement from Public Affairs, which was blessed off by a member of the First Presidency, ought to provide some finality to the issue (for now):

    “Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for his church.”

    It was never against doctrine for blacks to be ordained to the priesthood. It was a matter of process and procedure and precedent. Ordaining women would be a huge innovation, far more than putting a stop to plural marriage or ordaining black men. Light years beyond either of those two issues, by a few orders of magnitude.

  26. See jettboy’s post “Our Young Men are Leaving the Church”. If women had priesthood callings it would result in less men honoring the priesthood, because they would be less directly accountable to preside over anything including their families. I believe Heavenly Father knew boys and men would need to put on a white shirt and show up at a meetings in order to “do church stuff”. If not, they would go fishing or watch a game on TV (I mean… more of them would). But with callings, some stay faithful. Dear sisters, I think you are more in tune with the Spirit of Christ, or I should say the natural woman isn’t as stubborn as the natural man, so you don’t need a priesthood office to exercise the charity–and intelligence, and creativity–of what the Priesthood really is universally, eternally speaking.

  27. Michael Towns
    Probably very true on your comments on grouping polygamy, blacks and the priesthood with ordaining women.
    In my mind, after having read a great deal about polygamy and less so on blacks and the priesthood, I just saw the way members clung to those policies in the past. I think there was a time when the thought of the church being against polygamy or ordaining blacks, was something that the members at those times would have a hard time ever conceiving.
    I am not at all trying to advocate for OW. I have no desire to be ordained. I can understand that OW thinks ordaining women will solve their issues, or at least help. I don’t agree. I can respect their right to think that, but I don’t respect their trying to bully the leadership into getting what they want.
    Perhaps in playing “devil’s advocate”, I tried to put myself in the shoes of those who sacrificed so much for polygamy. I wondered if I had sacrificed and felt strongly about that, how would I feel when it was taken away? Would that cause my testimony to falter? I would hope not. I have wondered then, how would I react to another big change, and hope that if I spent my time defending my church and it’s leaders in something, that I would be just as willing to defend and support if the prophet made a change.
    But, thank you for the clarification- you are saying blacks and priesthood and polygamy were policy and ordaining women is more about doctrine?

  28. I just thought I’d pipe in here to thank you all for your comments and thoughts. I appreciate reading them and hope that my main post up above has generated some discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have been had. I do feel that the line that was finally crossed was the 6 missionary discussions and if those hadn’t been created, we probably wouldn’t be talking about Ms. Kelly right now (at least with regards to this).

  29. “But, thank you for the clarification- you are saying blacks and priesthood and polygamy were policy and ordaining women is more about doctrine?”

    Much ink has been spilled on these issues. The problem gets cloudy because you did, in fact, have folks going around saying that it was “doctrinal” when they had no authority to be saying that.

    In essence: the one who holds the keys of the priesthood on earth has the authority to authorize or de-authorize plural marriage. Doctrine has nothing to do with it. It’s pure policy. Likewise with blacks receiving the priesthood. In fact, historically and scripturally you have precedents for some groups having priesthood restrictions and for plural marriage being approved sometimes and disapproved. All the evidence thus points to the reality that it’s a policy that falls under the purview of the one person who holds all the keys of the kingdom: the presiding apostle.

    With respect to ordaining women to priesthood *offices*, there simply is no precedent. None. Nada. Zilch. Of course, women do use priesthood authority in many cases, particularly in the temple. But they aren’t ordained to *offices*, they are set apart to perform certain holy tasks that require priesthood power.

    Do you see where I am coming from? A revelation from President Monson giving women the opportunity to be ordained to priesthood *offices* would be absolutely earth-shattering, far far more than the aforementioned revelations detailed in OD 1 and OD 2. It would be extraordinary in every sense of the term.

    Note: I am not saying that it couldn’t happen. I am not even suggesting that I am personally opposed to it. This is the Lord’s church; He rules and reigns and it’s His prerogative.

    I am simply pointing out that the revelation would be different both in nature, scope, kind, and essence than anything that has ever happened before in dispensational history.

    No doubt, as we careen toward the Second Coming, things will get interesting and there will be surprises. But I think the Lord has a reason for setting up things the way He has. And per the statement from the Church I quoted above, it seems the Brethren are not anticipating such a radical change in our doctrine.

  30. I appreciate the post because it adds some logical Church-stance-supporting material to the discussion. I agree that the majority of the Bloggernacle is out-of-balance in with regards to the church discipline of Dehlin and Kelly.

    Things I liked about the post:
    1) Discussing the potential positive outcomes of excommunication. We need more of this to balance the super negative discussion.

    2) Explanation that it is not doubts that caused the church discipline, but the very public way they expressed the doubts. I think a lot of individuals are of the opinion that because Dehlin or Kelly represent some of their beliefs that they are not wanted in the Church. I agree that it is the size of the megaphone that is the cause for pain.
    I must say that the public way that they express their views and discussions (Mormon Stories/Ordain Women) are also sources of hope for a lot of individuals. With any type of exposure to ideas your beliefs/testimony will adapt to try and match your perspective of reality. We must understand that people probably leave and stay due to Dehlin and Kelly. The Church probably keeps tabs on those leaving and Dehlin and Kelly probably keep tabs on those staying to an extent, so both are probably swayed by poor data.

    Things I disagree with about the post:
    1)”Excommunication isn’t a punishment.” This may seem like I am mincing words here, but excommunication is definitely a punishment, although it may be part of discipline. Wikipedia – “Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something undesirable or unpleasant upon an individual or group by law enforcement, in response to behaviour that an authority deems unacceptable or a violation of some norm. The unpleasant imposition may include a fine, penalty, or confinement, or be the removal or denial of something pleasant or desirable.” Is church membership desired by Dehlin and Kelly? Yes (you may argue no, but Dehlin and Kelly say yes).
    Having said that I understand that discipline is the cause of the punishment. Wikipedia – “Discipline is a course of actions leading to certain goal or ideal.” I agree with you that the Church’s end goal is not punishment but healing. I just want to clarify that excommunication, disfellowshipment, etc. are punishments available to judges in the Church that are utilized for discipline.

    2)”Brother Phelps would not [have] returned without the tough love of excommunication.” I think I get what you are getting at, but the certainty of this statement is what rubs me the wrong way. There are limitless ways the Church could have interacted with Phelps and just because he eventually returned after being excommunicated does not mean that he would not have returned without excommunication. How many excommunicated individuals have not returned due to or after excommunication? How many people have migrated their faith transition or issues with the Church while retaining membership? Can we prove that excommunication is a magic bullet?…probably not.
    Again, I agree that the separation probably allowed Phelps to heal and return, but to chalk the return to the church up to excommunication is too much for me. He probably had thousands of experiences in his time away from the Church that led him back.

    Things that surprised me:
    1) “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.” I can see how you could come to this conclusion from a certain viewpoint, but to claim it is bold and dangerous. I am not going to say you are wrong because I don’t know, but I will say that we must be careful with these types of judgements. I don’t think you could say this for certain without truly and fully understanding Dehlin or Kelly.

    2) ” excommunication is a merciful blessing to Bro. Dehlin and Sis. Kelly…because they….lose the covenant relationship.” I understand the logic here, but I still think this is a strange argument. Covenants are supposed to discipline you. Bless you when you are in compliance and punish you when you are out of compliance. Just seems fragile if we say “We don’t want to punish you too much…here is a way out” and remove the covenant. Is there anyway that I could flip my covenant switch on when I am good and off when I am bad, because I would really only like blessings? Sorry, for the sarcasm and simplification, but personally I like my covenants to last, even through the hard times especially if I am still game for them (ie. Dehlin and Kelly).

  31. Matt – ” Just seems fragile if we say “We don’t want to punish you too much…here is a way out” and remove the covenant. Is there anyway that I could flip my covenant switch on when I am good and off when I am bad, because I would really only like blessings?”

    I want to touch on this, though I don’t know how well I can argue if it comes to that. From my understanding, excommunication (and disfellowshipment) suspend covenants &c for two main reasons; to help keep those who have sinned from further injuring themselves and to de-legitimize whatever authority they assume as members.

    We know there are dire consequences from even attempting to use authority when under the geas of sin. If someone insists on cutting themselves, you take away their knives until they are better. It’s easier to see such things when we’re dealing with murder and rape, less so for addictions, but the principle is the same. This is saying “you’re having a hard time with this. Take a step back, breathe, work in getting better without this added weight.” From personal experience, there is also something to be said for the heartache and longing of not being able to do things you once were able to do.

    The second reason, de-legitimizing authority, is much more applicable in the cases of Kelley and Dehlin. Kate Kelley is the only strong, solid member in the leadership of OW. Without her it would be just another disaffected Mormon group. As it is, even with her painting herself as a martyr to the Patriarchal structure, OW has been losing force, not gaining. The new “discussions” are driving more away than the protests. For Dehlin, this loss of legitimacy is more pointed. There have been many more lost, not from the questions being asked by him, but from the subtle way he encouraged doubts, than were saved from his efforts.

    Anyway, this is too long already, but there’s the gist.

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