The Church is Not Lying When It Says Discipline Decisions Are Made Locally

I’m seen the accusation all over LDS blogs and from people on Facebook that the church is lying in its statement yesterday that decisions regarding discipline “are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.”

They point to the fact that Brother Dehlin and Sister Kelly were summoned to disciplinary councils nearly simultaneously as evidence that church headquarters is in fact coordinating the discipline and therefore lying when they say otherwise.

But it isn’t a lie at all.

Even if the local leaders were subjunctively
encouraged by church headquarters to call these members to repentance and told that if they refuse to repent that the local authority may call a disciplinary council, the outcome of the disciplinary council is decided solely by the local authorities. Based upon the discussion and the witnesses and evidence and testimony of the individual, the council may decide to only disfellowship and not excommunicate. They may decide not to do anything. Whatever they judge is best for the individual and the other members and the church.

Also note that the individuals have only been summoned to councils, not disciplined yet. And we only know that they have been summoned because they went to the media about it. Their response to the summons will likely play a role in the decision by local leaders. But the decision will be made by the local leaders.

So saying that the decision is made locally is accurate.

Make sure you check out the link that was included at the end of the church’s statement yesterday with details about disciplinary councils:

30 thoughts on “The Church is Not Lying When It Says Discipline Decisions Are Made Locally

  1. Lots of very unfortunate accusations flying around these days in the LDS world. There is a sifting process going on. Cling to the prophets like they are a lifeboat and you are in the middle of the ocean. There is no other safe course (imho).

  2. The fact that some are accusing the Church of lying about this says more about the accuser than the Church, imho.

  3. Good point. Also to ensure the decisions are in accordance with the will of the Lord the Handbook does allow a member to appeal a council’s decision up the chain of command. A Ward level decision is appealed to the Stake presidency and High Council, and a Stake level decision to the First presidency.

  4. Goodness. You would think the sky is falling from all the internet posts. I think the sun will rise the day after the disciplinary councils are held, just like any other day.

  5. Kate Kelly has been disciplined already. So you are wrong about that. And note that she is only being called to a little Bishop’s court because she is just a woman. Dehlin gets the big guns, well, because he is a man and that makes it all the more serious, doesn’t it?

  6. You write: “Also note that the individuals have only been summoned to councils, not disciplined yet.” Now go read this
    Is not being allowed to comment in church a form of discipline? Not pray? Not sustain? So has she been disciplined yet? Is your comment that she has “not been disciplined yet” accurate?

    And to Geoff, how was a wrong? You left out that little part. Is she not going to a Bishop’s court? Why? Solely because of her gender, no?

  7. Thank you for that clarification, youarewrong. What I meant is that many people are talking as if they have already been excommunicated, and they have not. The purpose of the council is to determine if that is the best course of action.

    Her bishop or stake president may have already imposed some form of discipline, such as being disfellowshiped. If that is the case then I was not aware. But that still does not undercut the statement by the church that discipline decisions are handled by local authorities.

  8. ymuchvowelsrewrong

    I was really delighted that you saw that the bigger guns being deployed against Dehlin was a sign of sexism. I wish I had thought of that myself.

    Let me blame the victim, though. The Kate Kelly Movement has been a lot more chary of openly admitting they are atheist non-practicing non-believers than the Dehlinites have been. So the poor little discriminated-against biddy only has herself to blame.

  9. The Newsroom said: “Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.” I think this is dishonest under this definition:
    “There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

    When the Church says that decisions are not “coordinated” by headquarters knowing that headquarters prompted the proceedings (be real, both have been at their alleged “apostate” actions for more than a year and they got the letters within two days of each other and are on different sides of the country–obviously this was not a coincidence of the Spirit telling these leaders to do this within two days of each other). Note that “by silence, or by telling only part of the truth,” the Church has attempted to make it appear it was simply going about its business while the local leaders had the same inspiration at the same time with regard to the two most prominent members of the Church seeking change. Yeah, right. And Bishops claim we are dishonest when we leave out little details of our light petting experience as teenagers. I know, I know, the Church does not have to be as honest as its members–it never has had to be. Which is why John Dehlin is even a public figure at all–his deconstruction of the decades of the “not all truth is useful” approach.

  10. BCC’s Response is shockingly predictable. The implication is that church discipline against those politically against ones self is deserved or at least unmournable (Snuff, Rock), but only a tragedy if on the “same side.” The Bundy reference makes this explicit.

    Protest against government deserves excommunication, not protest against Church. The State is Almighty.

  11. The co-ordination is more on the part of JD and KK then on the part of church leaders. She was placed on informal probation by her stake president over a month ago, less than month after her action on Temple Square, but didn’t announce her stake president’s action until it suited her. John Dehlin from the way he describes it seems to have a whole drawer of correspondence from his leaders. Then these latest letters came to each of them within a couple days of one another. Double sixes! Call the New York Times!

  12. It could just be me, but I have the feeling these two have been taunting their local leadership and the church for some time.

    I feel bad for the choices KK and JD have made, but I don’t feel sorry for them. They are laying their persecution sob story on a bit thick.

  13. “Protest against government deserves excommunication, not protest against Church. The State is Almighty”

    jpv, Only one of these 3 would qualify as a protester.

    Bundy committed grand larceny and began organizing armed resistance in response.

    KK organized protests in favor of female ordination.

    Dehlin seems to be charged with not wanting to be active in the church and holding a very low level of belief. Sounds like 80% of my Stake. If it was the podcast, his SP made no mention of it.

  14. Christian J,

    I have no idea what has happened with Bundy, church discipline is typically private and it should stay that way. In these cases it has not and that is unfortunate.

    KK organized in favor of female ordination, but then she also published discussions with plans to teach and convince other members. I am pretty sure that is always inappropriate.

    Dehlin’s SP does not have to rationalize nor inform you of decisions. The letter is not an exhaustive list of charges or reasons for the discipline.

  15. Christian J., Bundy has court judgments against him, but I don’t think he has ever been tried on a criminal charge such as larceny. Does anyone know for certain whether the trespass matters he’s involved in have any criminal component?

  16. I was once disfellowshipped. It had to do with recovering from an abusive marriage and a former friend who desperately wanted to marry me. Things happened that should not have, though nothing happened that could have resulted in pregnancy (despite what the former friend told my first husband and apparently all the single men in the ward I became a member of upon my divorce). For what it’s worth, the conversation between the former friend and my first husband was in aid of former friend offering to turn testimony against me so my first husband could gain sole custody of our child. Telling lies to deprive a woman of her child. Not pretty.

    During the period of time when I was not able to do the things a disfellowshipped person is not allowed to do (e.g., pray), I was in Sunday School and an unsuspecting class president asked me to deliver the closing prayer. I decline. They insisted. I tried to decline again, and my bishop (love him) said something to the effect of “She can’t.”

    They asked someone else to give the prayer, and I got an earful of mother after that meeting. But that was all. In time I was back straight with God and the Church. And except for my mother and the bishop I’m not sure anyone really noticed my period of lost privileges. Bishops, stake presidents, and other leaders try really hard to make it possible for such disciplinary actions to go undetected by the rest of the congregation.

    The point is that disfellowshipment and even excommunication are typically handled very discretely. Only in the rarest cases (e.g., John C. Bennett in 1842) will the Church publicize the ouster of a bad actor.

    Intriguingly, in todays media-conscious world, the bad actors themselves will usually take care of informing the uninformed, as John Dehlin and Ms. Kelly have done this week regarding future disciplinary councils of which they have respectively been informed.

    The comments from “youarewrong” appear to support the idea that Ms. Kelly may have already been disfellowshipped. In which case, it seems doubtful that the most recent communication should have come as a great surprise.

    That said, disfellowshipment or even excommunication is not the end of all association with the Church. Excommunicated members can attend Church if they want. It’s true that opportunities for participation are curtailed, but the Church will not prevent people from darkening the door. Even in cases where court orders are part of the situation (e.g., when a young man breaks into the Bishop’s home and rapes his daughter), I’ve seen the innocent or even victimized individual be the one to voluntarily attend an alternate congregation, as it is rare to ban an offender from attending their local congregation. As far as I can determine, neither John Dehlin nor Ms. Kelly are the kind of individual where court orders would be required.

    A tip from history (my great-grandfather John W. Taylor), it doesn’t go well in a disciplinary council when you run away (as John did during the Smoot hearings) or tell the leaders it’s none of their business and they’re wrong (as John did when questioned about marrying his secretary and making her his sixth wife in 1909). It also didn’t seem to go well when people assembled candlelight vigils, full-page ads in the newspaper, or sent protest roses to Church headquarters.

    If Church membership is valued, the required actions at this stage are clear. Actions other than those required shows either a lack of desire to remain in good standing or a lack of understanding.

  17. Meg, I think you can also attest to the fact that, looking at Church history, many people who react emotionally to Church discipline later change their minds and repent. We have seen two of the Sept. Six come back to the Church, and Church history is filled with people coming back. The arms of the Savior are wide open to the people who want to embrace Him.

  18. Meg,

    According to the letter from Ms. Kelly’s Stake President, which Ms. Kelly provided to the NY Times and posted on her website, she was not disfellowed, but was placed on probation. Probation is and/or can be similar to be disfellowshipped in effect, but requires less formality to remove if Ms. Kelly were to have complied with the conditions.

  19. Many years ago, I had a few weeks of probation, and I was not allowed to give talks or pray in church.

    This whole situation is so sad. KK and John have sown much strife. I agree that their responses of going to the media and demonstrating a defiant rather than repentant attitude do not bode well for their continued membership in the church. They persist in leading their followers further astray by hardening themselves and speaking ever more bitterly about church leaders.

    Certainly there are many ironies about what they preach, not the least of which is that members are breaking their baptismal covenant to mourn with those who mourn. The reason this strikes me as ironic (besides it being false in many cases, because they seem to think we have to support them in order to mourn with them) is that they are breaking a temple covenant related to church leaders. That is not insignificant.

    None of us are perfect. We all live in glass houses. Let us mourn with them while not supporting what they do. Let us promote truth by correcting the lies being spread currently, such as that KK is being excommunicated for having questions. This is foolishness. But let us keep our corrections gentle and focused on the facts.

    Again, what a sad situation.

  20. Oh yeah, probation. Maybe thats what was going on with me. Whatever. Basically, I needed to work some stuff out, and I did it. And while I wasn’t square with God and the Church, I needed to refrain from giving prayers in meetings and teaching or talking in Church, etc.

    Folks reading the New York Times articles about this will not understand the culture and will presume they understand. That’s not cool.

  21. This is off-topic, but it is the closest to topic I could find to bring it up. KK and JD have assisted with an article for the Daily Beast that is openly hostile. It is found here:

    This article ought to be appended as a footnote to 2 Nephi 9:28.

    “That same anti-intellectual spirit is evident in the manner that the LDS church is choosing to proceed with Dehlin’s and Kelly’s potential ex-communication, especially in the case against Kelly.”

    “As an attorney, it’s a violation of due process, and it highlights that the system is unfair.”

    “The court isn’t really about listening to what I’ve had to say. It’s about punishing me. If it was about listening to what I had to say, they had ample opportunity to listen to me when I lived in the congregation.”

    “I’m worried this an incident of the church shooting the messenger because they don’t know how to deal with the problems. I think this is an act of desperation.”

    “I don’t have to change my mind. I just have to shut my mouth.”


  22. There really isn’t any good way for the Church to treat Kate Kelly’s discipline. If it’s done with her old Bishop/SP, it gets called a “Kangaroo Court”. If it’s with the new one, it gets called out for being done by people who don’t know her.

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