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.
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.