Okay, I guess I set myself up for this.
So I sort of waded into the discussion / argument on this post about Ordain Women. In those comments I mentioned that I have a dear friend that is believing LDS and has felt supportive of Ordain Women. She had asked me to contact Kate Kelly and ask her about her beliefs. (Presumably because I have experience with making the questions increasingly pointed until I either get an answer to my real question or the person refuses to answer.)
I made the mistake of mentioning this in the comments and attempted to run a middle ground between Hunter and Geoff’s points of views on Ordain Women. I have no doubt that a person can be a believing member of the Church — even in the most common and classic sense — and also support Ordain Women.
However, the big question we are asking here is if Ordain Women is actually being run by people that don’t believe the LDS church has a restored — through angels — priesthood in the first place. Nothing Kate Kelly has said to date has given me any reason to suppose she doesn’t and in fact she comes across very believing to me. But I also know that its easy to use misleading language and that many often do just this. So I really wanted to ask her directly, but I am prepared to take her word for it one way or the other.
I was actually live chatting with Kate for a brief moment. I wrote up for here my reasons for why I feel tranparency on her beliefs mattered as the leader of a public movement but did say that if she just wasn’t comfortable talking about her beliefs, I’ll accept that and leave her alone.
I wanted to show the argument I made to her, so I’m posting our conversation (which is like 99% me) here. [Edit: Kate made only three quick entirely public statements, so I felt there was not the slightest confidence being betrayed. The choice to show the conversation publicly was a choice to show my words publicly. But since I'm not being Bloggernacled on the fact that I made "Kate's prive words public" I am going to humor this very strange attack and remove Kate's words entirely and just summarized what happened for her side since this changes not a single thing in the post.]
Hey Kate Kelly,
I noticed we had some mutual friends on Facebook and wanted to contact you about your ordain women’s movement.
My own relationship with the LDS Church is somewhat complicated, but I am more or less a faithful believing Latter-day Saint. I’m sure you get questions regularly from various members want to know about what you believe and where you are coming from given the nature of your movement.
Are you open to being asked questions about your beliefs and about your own relationship with the LDS church and giving honest answers? Because I would like to understand your beliefs better and understand where you are coming from.
[Kate sends me three publicly available links about her and OW]
Hi Kate, read through what you sent me, except never did figure out which profile was yours. So I still have questions. When we get to questions of where you are coming from, there is no discussion at all about your beliefs or your faith. There are only statements about seeing the Church as good or never planning to leave it. Honestly, that doesn’t really answer my question.
You served a mission, so you know what my key question is here. Do you in fact believe that the LDS Church had the priesthood restored to it by angels and that no other church has any sort of priesthood authority and therefore — to use an example — the Catholic Church members will need to eventually accept an authorized baptism via the unique priesthood authority that only the LDS Church has? (i.e. the whole point of temple work)
I’m sorry to put it in such detail, because of course I know you understand why I’m asking and why it matters in a case like this. Are you willing to answer this directly? Or is this something you feel you can’t answer and want to keep your real beliefs private on? For what it is worth, while I don’t at this time support the Ordain Women movement, I have been a long time believer that women will receive the priesthood at some point in the future. So the idea is not strange to me. I’m just trying to understand where you are coming from on this. And I think this question does matter.
Bruce says the next day:
Hi Kate, can you help me with this question?
[Kate tell me that because of my and other people's questions she's created the "Ask Kate Kelly Anything" forum where you submit questions and she will choose ones to respond to on a podcast and encourages me to use it.]
Hi Kate. I do appreciate this, but I note that by doing this I have to submit a question that may or may not get asked on a podcast. Given the nature of my question, I have this considerable concern about you approaching my sincere question in this way. Please understand, I’m not trying to make any accusations or assumptions at all about you or where you are coming from, I’m just trying to go to the source for information. I hope you can see why this is a sincere thing for me to do. If it’s okay, I’d like to give you a little background so you understand where I’m coming from. So like I mentioned previously, I am not unsympathetic to the idea of women receiving the priesthood. So your basic idea here is not something I feel is doctrinally impossible. In fact, I await the day that women will receive the priesthood.
Kate says (in real time):
[Kate again encourages me to submit a question on her "Ask Kate Kelly" forum.]
Bruce says (a moment later):
But I happen to be a long time “bloggernacle vet.” And it took a few years for me to understand this, but there are some people on the bloggernacle that are non-transparent and even dishonest in how they represent themselves. I have documented in the past a number of the tricks they use to avoid having to answer sincere and relevant questions. There are essentially two tactics used to falsely represent themselves and two that are a more honest, but that refuse to answer any questions:
- Use of anger: Essentially you sincerely ask “well, you are claiming the church should change in this way or that, but those changes seem inconsistent with doctrine to me. I guess I’d like to know if you do or don’t believe in the truth claims of the LDS Church before we go any further.” And the response will be an angry “How dare you call me an apostate!” as a way of not having to answer the pertinent and sincere question needed to move the dialogue along. I will definitely give you credit for not using this tactic!
- Leaving false impressions: This tactic is to make a statement using words [or phrases] that are well understood by Mormons one way but to intentionally use them in a different and misleading way. For example, if I ask someone in your movement “Do you believe the LDS Church has restored the priesthood through visitations of angels, as they currently teach?” a misdirecting answer might be “Oh, I definitely believe the priesthood comes from God!” Now in this context, given the nature of my very specific question, the answer *seems* to be implying that this hypothetical person does in fact believe the LDS truth claim that there was no priesthood on the earth and that it had to be restored by angels. But in fact, that’s not what they actually said literally. What they said was “I believe the priesthood comes from God.” But perhaps what they really meant was “well, all religions are recognized by God and all religions have a sort of ‘priesthood’ that God recognizes. This is as true for the LDS church as for any religion.” Now I hope you can see how such an answer is in fact intentionally misleading.
- Redirect people to official and controlled statements and refuse to answer other questions: This tactic is essentially to only answer questions that are convenient to the speaker and to stay opaque on questions that are perceived as undermining to the speakers position. I had Joanna Brooks do this to me. Since she represents Mormons in public, I was honestly curious to what degree she believes in LDS beliefs. I asked her things like if she thought the Book of Mormon was an actual ancient historical document written by a man named Mormon or if she believed the LDS church held priesthood restored by angels and they are the only priesthood holders on the planet (as I’ve asked you). She sent me a link to an official statement of her beliefs – it answered none of my questions – and then refused to answer any other questions.
- Claim that the questions are irrelevant: Essentially this tactic is to claim that Mormonism is a broad cultural movement and there is no such thing as an ‘orthodox Mormon’ and therefore they find these questions irrelevant and do not care to answer them.
Kate, I sincerely am hoping that you do in fact believe the LDS teachings about priesthood and that in fact that is *why* you want to hold the priesthood. I sincerely am hoping that you can confirm to me point-blank that, yes, you believe John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the Aaronic priesthood to them and that then later Peter, James, and John restored the Melchezidek priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery . And I’m hoping you can confirm that this priesthood had been lost from the earth and that that is why it needed to be restored and that today Thomas S. Monson is God’s anointed mouth piece and prophet to the whole world. I think you doing this would add great credibility to your project.
However, if you can’t confirm these things, I hope you’d see why that might be information that the followers of Ordain Women should be aware of and should be able to choose for themselves, based on full disclosure of information, if this is a movement they want to be a part of. I think you’ll find that there are many that are okay with you and the other leaders of Ordain Women [if you do not] believe in the truth claims of the Church. Many Mormons have many different feelings on this topic. I am simply suggesting that transparency and honesty are virtues worth having in and of themselves and that people should be able to make decisions based on knowing where you are really coming from.
Personally, I don’t really care what you believe. I am maybe not the most standard believer myself and I’m pretty sympathetic to non-standard beliefs. My only real issue is with transparency and honesty and allowing people to make their own informed decisions.
Now that I’ve explained my background and thoughts, I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t just ignore my requests or tell me that you will only answer questions through a very controlled podcast situation. I am not interested in submitting my questions to a podcast where you get to select which questions to ask and how to phrase them or represent them or where I am incapable of asking follow-up questions by which I can make sure I understood what the answer really meant (as per tactic #2 above).
I am okay with you using tactic 3 or 4 if this is something you really feel strongly about. If the previous links are the only official information you care to give out about your beliefs, just tell me that, Kate and I’ll leave you alone, I promise. But I really hope you’ll consider what I’m saying and really search your heart over this very important questions of transparency and honesty. This is something the LDS church has not done as well on as I would have liked to see, but I do feel they are really moving in the right direction now (have you seen the new seminary manuals!) But in my opinion it’s a two-way street. Ordain Women should practice the same transparency to also allow people to make informed decisions. Even if you disagree with me, can you at least see why I might want to make a sincere attempt to talk you into it? And how do you personally feel about the LDS church’s track record of transparency? Is this an area you have thought they needed to improve in? If so, can you see that it is perhaps right for you as a public figure to practice this as well?
At this point, Kate disappeared and the conversation stopped. She had been real-time for a moment there. I will give an update in a few days as to whether or not she replies.
I want to add something else. I really did try to be gracious and non-confrontational. I hope people will forgive me where they feel I handled things poorly. I was sort of rushing to write that last comment because I had her real-time. So please be gentle if you think I said things poorly.
Also, I know some people really just disagree with the idea of asking questions like this at all. Liberals on the Bloggernacle, in particular, (even believing ones) have long told me they find it hurtful and offensive. It may surprise them that I agree with them. The difference between me and them on this is that I find people pretending to believe things they don’t or not being transparent on questions that matter even more hurtful and offensive. As with all things rational in life, you can never just look at one side, you must compare both sides.
My main point to Kate Kelly was that transparency is a two-way street. I am hoping this is a point she agrees with me on, at least. The people in Ordain Women should know if the founders believe the current Church teachings about priesthood and should be able to decide if that affects their involvement or not. Maybe it will for some and maybe it won’t for others. I think there is some nuance here that should be part of the public dialogue, so let me ask the following questions for discussion so we can get multiple view points:
- Okay, so say the leaders don’t believe LDS Doctrine on the priesthood, but say they still believe the LDS Church does have a priesthood from God (perhaps because God recognizes all religions as having ‘priesthood.’) Does that then mitigate the situation through nuance? Does it maybe imply that we are still dealing with ‘believers’ in some legitimate sense and therefore what difference does it make if they believe the current official doctrine or not?
- Okay, so suppose the Ordain Women’s movement is primarily even outright non-believers. But aren’t we still dealing with a real women’s issue here? Isn’t ‘priesthood equality’ still an issue within the LDS Church worthy of discussion and isn’t a desire to help the church make a change — even if it came from faithful practicing but non-believing members — still something worthwhile to many?
- Is there a right to privacy of belief here? Given the public nature of the movement and the leaders, clearly I don’t think that is the case. But maybe I’m wrong. Is there a moral requirement that if these are card-carrying members — regardless of their personal beliefs — that it just isn’t our business to ask them about their beliefs?
- What about the concept of two-way transparency. I made the point I thought it was good policy, but could I be wrong here? Might there be more of a need for a large institution like the LDS church to be transparent and not nearly so much for a smaller organization like Ordain Women to be transparent?
Please discuss. Perhaps there is some room here for more than one point of view and I’d encourage commenters to stick with discussion about ideas and not personal attacks on people — not even the Ordain Women’s leaders. It’s okay to say you think such-and-such action has moral ramifications, but please try to not personalize that to “so-and-so is immoral” because my experience is that people are not generally intentionally being deceptive. If they wanted to be intentionally deceptive, they could just do an outright lie. They haven’t done that. So we are probably dealing with differing points of view on the four questions above.
If I haven’t heard back from Kate Kelly in a day or two, I’ll do a follow up post.