What now?

It’s been a rough couple of days. I am absolutely heartsick.

Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, and John Dehlin, of the Mormon Stories podcast series, were both sent letters recently informing them that they will face Church disciplinary councils.

I don’t know Kate and I don’t know John–I have never met either of them.  I do know people who know them, am Facebook friends with both, and have read their writings.  These are two incredibly important voices in Mormon culture.  John is a psychologist, who has spent his life working with LDS people who doubt, and especially with LGBT Latter-day Saints.  Kate not only advocates for female ordination (an issue about which I hold no strong position), but has also been a voice for LDS women who feel marginalized by LDS patriarchy.

For me, an organizing metaphor in the Church is that of a tent; we live in ‘stakes,’ outposts to which tent lines are tethered.  So how big is that tent?  Is it big enough for voices calling for female priesthood ordination?  Is it big enough to make room for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?  Is it big enough for doubt, for questioning, for non-correlated lessons and non-orthodox conversations?  And the question I’m hearing over and over is this: is it big enough for me?

Fourteen.  As I write this, I know of fourteen young LDS friends, male and female, who have decided, based on this news, to terminate their membership in the Church.  I know of fourteen letters written, fourteen formal requests for excommunication.  ‘Good riddance,’ some may say.  In fact, many people are saying precisely that. ‘Go away.’  The on-line comments to the Deseret News article about this number nearly 200, nearly all of them saying some version of ‘get lost.  Leave.’

Fourteen.  Fourteen, that I know of, so far.  Some of them, to be sure, are from people who were pretty disaffected anyway.  But not all.  One young woman I know was, until this week, very active in her ward.  She served in her ward’s Relief Society Presidency.  But this is too much, she thinks.  This is unconscionable. So she’s out.

Mormonism is my spiritual home.  Mormonism is the well from which I drink, the roof over me, the bed on which I lay my head.  I love the Church.  I love its leaders.  I also believe that they are men, expounders of truth, but capable of error, men of  a courage which sometimes falters, sensible and senseless, as are we all.  I doubt; I also believe. And the authenticity of my faith journey requires both doubt and belief.

So is there room for me in the tent?

The right words, spoken at the right time, by the right people, can make a huge difference.  And so, today, I listened to this. John Dehlin and Kate Kelly, on a Salt Lake Tribune podcast.  And they’re in pain, clearly in pain, and in mourning and fearful and at times, inarticulate.  But what should we do about it?  What should we do?  John Dehlin:

Do whatever makes you healthy. . . I do not want anyone resigning their membership because of me–please don’t do that.  At least a hundred people have suggested that they’ll do that; please don’t.  I don’t think people should put themselves in jeopardy or harm by being open in public, if they’re not in a life position where that would be good for them. I think people should tap into their center, to their soul, to their core, to the safety issues that surround them.  If people want to leave the church because it’s not healthy for them, then by all means do that.  But I’m not asking for anyone to fall on their sword, or protest, or march, or storm the castle.  I just want people to be healthy and happy, and to live the life that’s good for them.

Kate Kelly:

The day that I launched OrdainWomen.org was March 17, 2013, and I went to Church, and that was the most joy I had felt going to Church basically since my mission. . .  I felt like I could be my true self.  I felt liberated.  And I felt the Spirit.  So you should do whatever makes you feel like that.

I don’t want to speak for the Church, or impute ill motives to Church leaders, or attack anyone for anything.  I prayed last night, most of the night I prayed, and towards morning, I felt some relief, some love, some peace.

Let’s pray together, counsel together, mourn together, hope together.  Let’s push back the tent poles a little.  John and Kate, thank you.  And let the Restoration continue.


18 thoughts on “What now?

  1. Brian Preece

    I was a good friend to D. Michael Quinn (one of the Salt Lake Six). When he left BYU and then was excommunicated, it was hard on me and shook my testimony. But I have made peace with it all. I think Mr. Dehlin’s statement is right on target.

    1. Paul Pisano

      Hi Eric and Margaret–in the absence of a Like button and lacking any significant insight of my own to add, I just wanted to “hear-hear” your entry and comment respectively and say hello to you both while I’m at it. Best wishes, Paul P.

      PS in Indiana it’s currently 11:30PM on the 12th, so how did Margaret’s post arrive before mine on the 13th? Is that your local time and are you writing from somewhere across the pond?

  2. Mike

    I share many of your ideas. Thanks for expressing them so well. I hadn’t been aware of your blog before a friend linked to this, but will continue reading.

  3. David Scott

    Hugh B Brown said once to BYU students: “Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.”

    “One may not attain salvation by merely acknowledging allegiance, … It is in large measure a problem of awareness, of reaching out and looking up, of aspiring and becoming, of pushing back our horizons, of seeking for answers, and of searching for God. In other words, it is not merely a matter of conforming to rituals, climbing sacred stairs, bathing in sacred pools, or making pilgrimages to ancient shrines. The depth and height and quality of life depend upon awareness, and awareness is a process of being saved from ignorance.”

    I hope people in the faith will not be pushed from the tent for doing exactly that!

    1. Charla

      I absolutely love this quote. Thank you for sharing and for your compassion. I wish there were more like you.

  4. Lynn Boyce

    A sad repeating story, hierarchy and
    authority versus free thought and questioning minds. The gospel is strong enough to survive and inspire prayerful thought about every issue.

  5. David R Hall

    When any person takes a private conversation public they are doing so for there own ego and following. Notice that there is no response or defense put out by the bishops or stake presidents who requested the confidential voluntary meetings. What happens in those private meetings is confidential and any public disclosures are inappropriate and indicators of a lack of good well to others.

    The bishops and stake presidents are ordinary humble servants who are simply trying to bring souls to Christ. They have no other agenda.

    1. Charla

      It’s precisely this type of comment that infuriates me. You have no clue why Kate or John decided to make their letters public yet you are comfortable stating that it must be because of ego. What happened to judge not? John’s letter specifically stated that if he chose to withdraw his name from church records that the stake president would make a public announcement to that effect. Why in the world should he allow a stranger to share the news with his entire stake? I spoke with a bishop about this and while these meetings are indeed private, it is absolutely within the discretion of the person who is being disciplined to make them public.

      Wouldn’t a better and more Christlike response have been to simply say that you are saddened by the situation and hope that it’s resolved in everyone’s best interests (although perhaps you’d like to see people leave)? I want to be part of a church where people show grace and kindness to one another and not one where people seem a bit too eager to watch people leave.

  6. rrapier33

    Incredibly well said, Eric. And may those sitting on the councils that these two will apparently face have a true manifestation of what Christ feels for these two people. If that happens, then the correct outcome, whatever it may be, will occur.

  7. Scott K

    Yet another inaccurate disposition on events actually happening. while it is undeniably sad its consequences are not accurately being weighed in. the OW movement is very clearly saying (with their words and their actions) “we will not rest until women have the priesthood. regardless of the decisions made by church leaders their efforts will carry on until their demands are met. They are quite literally throwing out one of the cornerstones of our religion by saying that the prophetic power to dictate the doctrines of the church is inherently broken and that they are the ones that know better. Whats worse is that they are creating a movement that is causing, as John says, people to fall on their swords to try and protest a point. Can you imagine if people felt this same way about the Word of Wisdom or Chastity? Rebelling against the church because we are at odds with something we don’t understand or don’t like? While I appreciate the sentiment, John and Kate are not heroes, they are simply confused. They are too caught up in the pride of their own opinions to see that they are doing far more damage to the church by this entire movement that what they think they can accomplish by trying to change things.

    1. Charla

      We all have different interpretations of what the situation is. You claim that it was an inaccurate description. I believe it was spot on. Yes, OW are a strong group of men and women, but one thing that people always seems to forget is that while they certainly believe women should be ordained, they state in their FAQs, “We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.” That doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me.

      I respect that you’re entitled to your own opinions, but I hope that you don’t actually want people to be forced from the church who, at least according to their own words, desperately want to remain a part of it. Instead of judging and asserting truth as you see it, wouldn’t it be more Christlike if you simply stated that you are saddened by what is occurring and hope that everyone involved will be able to feel Christ’s love and guidance. If there were more responses like that out there then so many people wouldn’t be considering leaving.

      I want people to stay in the church. We are better and stronger for our diversity. I would hope that my brothers and sisters in the gospel feel the same.

    2. Carrie Ann

      Kate started OW precisely when so many of us needed a place to rest. She is being pushed out for doing something that gave me the personal strength to continue every week. Because of her example I am a better person. I hope the tent is big enough for someone who makes such a selfless contribution to society and the church.

  8. Charlotte

    Eric – thank you for your comments. I know of a few who have slipped away quietly the past few years and some who are barely with us. I have tried to make RS an inviting place of welcome for all. If the church is a tent, then decreasing its size lessens its welcome and impact, potentially suffocating some inside. It has been a week of mourning for me. In differing opinions, I find greater understanding of the human experience and greater love for others. I ask myself the same question you posed–is there room for me with my doubts, questions and weaknesses in this tent? I pray that soft hearts, open discourse, and greater love expand the tent. Lean out. Lean out.

  9. Rob

    I am sure the Brethren are well aware of OW and LGBT issues. There were member petitions to question tobacco, government pressure to eliminate polygamy, and public pressure to open the Priesthood to all worthy males. Sometimes this process takes a few weeks and other times a few decades. Sometimes the answer remains no. The problem isn’t the questioning. The problem is the persistence and demands for an immediate affirmative response. To cave into popular demand would negate all of our claims of prophecy.

    I read that Kate had already been called into a disciplinary council and was told to shut down the OW website. She didn’t, she’s continued to make demands, and continues to rally members in her support. If it’s true that she’s already had a disciplinary council, shame on her. She’s made her point and now she needs to decide what’s most important to her.

    As for John, the LGBT issue is very well known across the world. I’m a little more sympathetic towards him because from what I’ve read, his intentions are honorable and he has no intention of dissuading people away from the gospel. I do question why he’s chosen to announce his “confidential” disciplinary council. If he’s disclosed it, shame on him. If someone else slipped it out, double shame on them.

    I appreciate Catholicism because they continue to hold their positions despite widespread disagreement within and outside the Church. Many Catholics don’t adhere to the doctrinal principles but at least Rome still holds them sacred. I honor that.

    If you look at mainstream Protestantism, most religions have caved in to popular culture. Issues of the day are voted on by the members or congregational representatives. There is no pretense that prophecy exists or that God directs their affairs. Their admittance and inclusion of popular culture has resulted in declining attendance and reduced support. Their doctrine (or doctrinal differences) is now a mishmash of “goodness” mingled with scripture. Even basics like sacrament on Sundays is not widely practiced anymore!

    The strength of Mormonism is based on the principle of prophecy. There is a process. Both John and Kate have made their wishes known. Now they need to let the process move forward. It may take a while and the answer may be “no.” So be it. I’d rather follow divinely inspired processes than popular culture and some popular issue purported by every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes along.

    1. Carrie Ann

      I didn’t think that was nearly as well written, but more importantly it got a lot of facts incorrect. I don’t think any of us want to be men. We are thankful to be different and feel like the world and church would be better if our voices and talents were put more fully to use. I don’t think that writer knows very many current feminists. The snark could have been fun if the facts were better researched.


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