Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Here's why Kate Kelly was not excommunicated for asking questions

Let me first say -- I feel bad for Kate Kelly. Excommunication from the LDS church is no small matter. Depending on how she handles it, it could have devastating, eternal consequences for her and her family. It's sad, it really is. For any church members to say that they are glad she is gone, or that they are vindicated by this decision...well, it's not a very good attitude to have, friends. We want for Kate what we want for everyone -- eternal life and exaltation.

The doctrine/lack of doctrine behind the issue of ordaining women has been discussed. A lot. That's not what I want to do here.

I have to bring to light, though, a facet of this sad event that is having far-reaching consequences -- most notably, a negative perception of the church that I love.

It saddens me to see that Kate Kelly's excommunication has turned into "Mormons can't ask questions or they'll be excommunicated." Some members of the church claim to feel "silenced" by this action against Sister Kelly. They say that the church is sending a message that if you ask questions, even sincere ones, you will not be permitted membership in the church.

Here's my problem with that: Kate Kelly was NOT asking a question.

I repeat: Kate Kelly was NOT asking a question. Not anymore. She was sharing a teaching, a belief.

From Ordain Women's mission statement: "Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to to reflect the equality and expansiveness of [the fundamental tenets of Mormonism]."

While other language on the website reflects the idea of "asking" Church leaders to prayerfully consider the topic, the fact is that they believe that women should be ordained. Not "We wonder if women should be ordained" or "We are exploring the idea of ordaining women" or "We doubt that God meant for His priesthood to be held exclusively by men." No. Their belief is set. In fact, each member profile on the Ordain Women website ends the same way: "I believe that women should be ordained."

This is not a question. This is a statement of belief. It is a teaching.

This is further supported by Ordain Women's six "discussions" that explain their cause and mission. They are trying to teach people. They are not seeking an answer. Rather, they have found their answer and are unwilling to accept any alternatives. They are demanding their solution. The very name of their organization is a command: Ordain Women.

Kate Kelly is not forbidden from wondering if women should be ordained. She is not forbidden from praying about the subject, or from discussing it with her family and friends and local leaders. She can even believe that women will receive the priesthood someday, when God reveals it. She can believe that, and not be excommunicated.

What she can't do is teach it as though it were established doctrine. Not without permission from the people who are tasked with keeping the doctrine in line with God's will. She taught it anyway. They asked her to stop. She didn't.

Here I must point out -- If any limit is placed on the questions we ask, it is this: that no person can receive revelation for an area outside their jurisdiction (for lack of a better term). Jurisdiction, for most members, means the member and his/her family. For a bishop, it means him, his family, and his ward. For the prophet (and only the prophet) it means the entire church. To sustain a leader of the church (a formal "vote," if you will, to show public support for a leader of the church) is to agree to be led by his/her counsel, and to respect his/her area of jurisdiction.

Kate Kelly was not, is not, never has been, in a position to receive revelation for the entire church. Not only that, but she sustained her bishop and stake president, along with the general leaders of the church -- the prophet and apostles. She agreed to respect them, and to allow their words and insights to help her find answers to her questions. But when they gave her counsel she didn't agree with, she refused to listen. That is not asking. That is demanding to hear an answer that she has already given herself. At some point, Sister Kelly crossed the boundary from honest questioning and well-intentioned doubting to preaching a doctrine contrary to the teachings of the church. She continued to do so after being asked to stop. This teaching needed to be dissociated with the official doctrine of the church. This is why she was excommunicated -- not because she asked a question.

Let me be clear: Mormons are not expected to believe anything. We are not expected to follow blindly. We are encouraged to ask for and seek truth. We are taught to ask with sincere hearts and unwavering faith. We are told that this sincere asking will bring us personal peace and guidance.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not prohibit, hinder, or in any way discourage questions. It just doesn't. And if Ordain Women really had been asking a question, Kate Kelly's story may have ended differently.

UPDATE, 6/30: To read the church's official statement on questions and doctrine, click here. 

UPDATE 2, 6/30: I so appreciate all of you reading and adding your comments. Please know that I'm having some problems with Blogger and comments right now; the latest comments are not being displayed for some reason. The comments ARE showing up in the backend, but are not being shown on the live blog. I'm working to fix this, but in the meantime, please only post your comment one time. Thank you!