On Excommunication

In 1971, Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng published his Infallible? An Inquiry in which he declared his opposition to the doctrine of papal infallibility. This represented a very vocal apostasy from a core Catholic doctrine by a man who occupied an influential position as professor of Catholic theology at Tübingen. Küng was not excommunicated but was stripped of his missio canonica, the licence to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian. He was able to remain at the university as professor of ecumenical theology, however.

In 1983, the Code of Canon Law revised its statement on excommunication: no longer did it sever someone from the Church. Excommunicated Catholics are still Catholics. At no point does it cancel the sacraments — Catholics readmitted into communion are not required to be re-baptised, which is impossible anyway, given the Catholic theology of baptism. Of course, in Küng’s case this was all moot anyway. Despite his heresy, he was not excommunicated.

I point this out for two reasons. First, to remind readers that excommunication in a Mormon setting is the nuclear bomb of Christian excommunications in that it cancels the saving power of the sacraments. When you have the beating of the Catholics in the severity of your censures, it should give you pause. Second, excommunication for heresy is a rare thing in Christianity today. I do not mean to suggest that Mormonism needs to follow Catholicism in its modes of discipline, just that we should recognise the incredible significance of what is being proposed when we speak of excommunication.

The scriptural warrant for a form of excommunication is sound, and I will not argue against it. Shunning, though unpleasant, is fully Pauline (1 Cor 5; Romans 16). Occasionally, diseased members of the body — predators, mostly — have to be cut away. The governing principle should always be that excommunication should be for the benefit of the whole body of Christ. In the case of the mooted actions against Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, I am sincerely struggling to see how that could be the case.

On John Dehlin

The Mormon Stories community is not really my thing but I have met John and found him to be a pleasant chap. I can imagine that a case can be made for mildly censuring John, given that his podcasts sometimes give voice (and have done for a long time and with a large audience) to critics of the church. His reach is such that the church is justified in taking him seriously, i.e. he is not just some guy with a blog and ten readers.

John reports that his Stake President has invited him to leave the church or face a trial, after John expressed his desire to no longer be contacted by his ward. In my mind, that can only mean that the Stake President is already seriously considering excommunication rather than mild censure (disfellowshipping?) as the outcome of the court. Given what I said above about excommunication, this is very disturbing. If John were a Mormon authority or a teacher at BYU or for CES, I can see a Küngian censure as justified, but not excommunication, especially given that he is none of those things. I have not been in a ward in the church in the last few years (six wards, two continents) that has not had someone who considered themselves a fan of Mormon Stories. If John is excommunicated, it will be a blow to thousands. That may partly be the point — it is John’s influence that warrants the trial — but this is not the 1990s:  social media will ensure that an excommunication will have no silencing effect. I think that disaffection will increase and am therefore struggling to see why anyone would want that.

I would also like some clarity as to the real grounds of the heresy charge (what Mormons problematically call “apostasy”). The New York Times has reported that his Stake President has expressed concern regarding “some of [his] recent statements and actions regarding this church and [his] place in it,” citing an Internet posting in which Mr. Dehlin wrote that “he no longer believed many fundamental ‘truth claims’ the church makes.” Does this mean that simple unbelief warrants a heresy trial? What exactly has John Dehlin done wrong? No doubt his local leaders will cite court confidentiality, but in our internet age, we need as much transparency as is possible or the painful miasma that surrounds the doubting and disaffected will thicken.

On Kate Kelly

If you wanted to somehow prove that women’s voices are not fully appreciated in the church, you could do nothing better than to have an all-male panel try a woman in absentia.  Again, the reverberations of any censure are what concern me, although the personal hurt Kate will experience is of course also a bother. People inclined to sympathise with Ordain Woman will obviously take it as a blow; but the fall-out — in the form of an emboldening of those  in the church who try to stigmatise and marginalise those who waver  — will make Mormon life increasingly intolerable for many members, women especially. Once again, where is the benefit here for the body of Christ? I fear that division and protest will only get worse, to everyone’s shame.

I am also really struggling to see how asking for admittance to priesthood meeting (an action they did not intend to repeat next time), or asking the Brethren to open up a dialogue on women’s ordination, constitutes the “apostasy” of which she is accused. Apostasy would be setting up a rival church or ordaining women without ecclesiastical authority. Kate Kelly wants the priesthood but she wants it in the Mormon way. She may be an irritant and an agitator — there is no point in pretending otherwise — but there was a way to diffuse this and the threat of excommunication, and the somewhat underhand way it appears to be being pursued, is not it. Jesus did not say, “What man is there among you who, when his daughter asks for a loaf, will give her stone? But if she asks to talk with you, you can convene a church court.”

Again, it would be good to know exactly what the heresy here is. Criticising church policies? BCC and countless bloggers and intellectuals do that all the time. Should we expect letters? Organising (polite) protests? Being successful in organising (polite) protests?

And can someone please tell me how a Mormon man can organise what looks like an armed insurrection against his government and avoid any church action whatsoever (Cliven Bundy), while Kate Kelly faces being cut off from the church she so obviously loves?

The view from here

I am a life-long Latter-day Saint, a returned missionary, and a member of the bishopric in my ward. The church means the world to me and I serve as honourably as my fallen nature will allow. I am a small part of an LDS intellectual conversation that tries honestly to wed study and faith for the benefit of the church.  I am trying to raise my children in the faith. Every Sunday I look at the emptying pews in my chapel in this small corner of the kingdom and feel disheartened. Our church is in serious trouble if its great modern crusade is seen to be the suppression of open discussion, the neglect of women’s voices, and an inability to raise its sights above the culture wars. Few converts will join such a church and our youth will increasingly find it intolerable.

This affects all of us, even the majority of the Saints who no doubt support these actions. The fact is that many of those rocked by these things are active Mormons who serve faithfully in their wards. I know that they are in a minority in the church, but they also tend to be people of great talent and experience and so their disaffection is a loss to more than just their own families. I know this because they are people I know, including members of my own family whose talents are really missed in wards that really need them. Their loss, or even their increasing apathy, will contribute to those empty pews remaining unfilled. The gospel of love, so desperately needed in a world in which we are crying out for the kind of principled leadership that can answer the great questions about conflict, about greed, about the environment, about the poor, about preaching Christ in a secular world, is being sold for a mess of boundary maintenance so narrow that it may one day exclude half of the church.

I really pray for John and Kate and their families, and also for their church leaders who, for whatever reason, feel that their faith leaves them no choice but to do this.

Mostly, I just feel really, really sad.

[I have made some minor edits to this post to better represent Catholic doctrine as well as the situation regarding John Dehlin.]

Comments

  1. Amen

  2. brian larsen says:

    Thank you, thank you. One of the many responses out there I wish to have written.

  3. “Mostly, I just feel really, really sad.”

    Amen.

  4. BlueJay says:

    Amen. Thank you so much for so eloquently giving voice to my feelings on this subject. It is good to know that I am not alone.

  5. Jason K. says:

    God bless you, Ronan.

  6. Amen to every word. Every word.

  7. Peter Yates says:

    Head of nail completely hammered. Thanks Ronan.

  8. Jessica says:

    Perfection. Thank you.

  9. At least the World Cup starts tonight.

  10. Well said.

  11. summerstay says:

    Thank you so much. This was healing to read this. It may help me to not march out the door.

  12. Why do people identify more with intellectual groups that seek to become a subset and an outlier or our faith at best (or convert the rest of our faith to them at worst) rather than the Brethren? This isn’t an assault on intellectuals. Both individuals in question are actively building a following that his already or very close to heartening to their voices than to the Lords through the Brethren.

    Consider the website mimicking I’m a Mormon, posting missionary discussions of their own make and agenda. It’s literally duplicate our faith with its own spin and getting followers to line up with it. That’s actively teaching and getting people to line up with you.

    When the brethren speak at conference or elsewhere, do this individuals offer up commentary to their followers which is supportive or undermining in nature? I suggest the fact that they not only feel they have to comment and respond to various statements but do so publicly and try to get followers in the process makes at least examining the excommunication a possibility.

    The individuals in question don’t need our support telling them they’re justified and action against their actions is wrong. But our pleas to return through the hole in the fence they’ve enlarged and are inviting others to explore.

  13. Amen. I’m still in shock.

  14. Observer says:

    From what I have seen, I can fully understand the actions against Kate Kelly, but am puzzled by the actions against John Dehlin.

    In Kelly’s case, she organized a very public demonstration against Church policy and teachings. She was specifically told by the Church not to bring that demonstration onto Church property (specifically Temple Square), and chose to very publicly ignore those instructions. Her organization claims that it only wanted the Church leadership to ask the questions of the Lord, but when they were given a very clear answer regarding ordination in particular (in the form of Elder Oaks’ talk), she and her organization chose to double down rather than accept the answer.

    I think it is important to note that by her own account she didn’t face any sort of discipline until May of this year, well after her first organized demonstration last October and not until after Elder Oaks’ talk (and her public response to it). Her actions since the April General Conference provide at least a reasonable basis for possible discipline, because she continues to publicly push for that which she has been plainly told is a doctrinal issue and cannot be changed.

    However, I don’t see what there is in the case of John Dehlin that would put him in the same category as Kate Kelly. From everything I’ve seen, he hasn’t publicly opposed the Church, nor has he tried to lead people away from the Gospel.

    The part I find most troubling is the way that Dehlin’s Stake President asked him to either resign or face Church discipline. It is one thing for a Church leader to call someone to repentance (including, if needed, through facing formal discipline). It is another thing entirely for a Church leader to ask someone to resign, to almost demand (under threat of discipline) that they separate themselves from the Church. That isn’t a call to repentance. Merely expressing doubts, even in a very public fashion, should never be a basis in and of itself to demand that someone separate himself from the Church. Instead, it should be a call to treat the person with greater love and compassion, and do everything you can to help them work through their doubts.

    In all of this, I think it is also important to be mindful that we are only getting one side of the story here, and that side will naturally have a definite bias to it. Because the Church has a well-grounded policy of not discussing specific disciplinary acts in public, we’ll likely never get the other side of the story. I used to be in the same Stake as Kelly (I lived in a neighboring ward until 5 years ago), and I know many of the people who will be involved in the entire process. I sincerely doubt that their motivations are as impure as some have attempted to claim. I sincerely believe that they are concerned for her, but likely feel that her actions have left them with little choice at this point.

  15. Peter Yates says:

    When the Prophet Joseph bemoaned his “sadly, learned experience” what percentage is to be gleaned from “almost all”? 51? 75? 99? And this equation for those who only possess a “little authority” who are left alone in their own thought processes, as to what quantity has actually been received. Which groups in the Priesthood are immune from Section 121? Bishops? SP’s? GA’s. Kate Kelly, John Delhin and the rest of us are about to find out.

    Ronan, I completely agree that this is not Christ-like though I don’t pretend to speak for Him. That opinion is based on what I have read and felt while I was reading. I would ask all of those involved on the Church leadership side, to take a collective breath lest they “immediately” begin an exercise that has been so meticulously condemned.

  16. Peter Yates says:

    “what”

  17. I’d also just say, you know nothing of Bundy because he hasn’t gone public with it and the church hasn’t either. The questions you are asking will not be answered for good reason. I’m not suggesting any knowledge about Bundy, but for all you know things have been lined up or are in process. In general though, I find some of his actions wrong and others justified according to the American tradition. Appalling to some perhaps, but conflating these examples is rhetorically weak sauce.

  18. cookie queen says:

    Olé.

  19. “At least the World Cup starts tonight.”

    Talking of which, any WC plans at BCC?

  20. Michael N says:

    I echo your thoughts, RJH. Thanks for writing this.

  21. “However, I don’t see what there is in the case of John Dehlin that would put him in the same category as Kate Kelly. From everything I’ve seen, he hasn’t publicly opposed the Church, nor has he tried to lead people away from the Gospel.”

    He seems to have become much more critical recently. His public comments mentioned by his Stake President, publicly claiming that the Tanners were “basically right about everything,” and also endorsing the “Letter to a CES Director” would seem to indicate this.

    This doesn’t make the situation any easier though.

  22. Ron Madson says:

    Ronan, you ask a very important question: “What exactly has he done wrong?” in regard to John Dehlin I would ask “What exactly does he not believe that subjects him to the spiritual death penalty?

    This might be a little long but I need to share this account for That was precisely my question to an Apostle when he visited our stake in 1993 just before the trial of Avraham Gileadi. I had just completed a one week course by Avraham on the Book of Isaiah. I found it very enlightening. Avraham called me and informed me he was being tried for his membership and asked some advice (I was a bishop at the time and he thought I might have some insight–I didn’t). So when the now unnamed Apostle came to our stake we had one of those private leadership training meetings and he said “Brethren ask any question you want—anything.” I knew better then to put my question regarding Avraham before everyone so I waited until the meeting was over and approached the visiting Apostle and asked “Do you know why Avraham is being tried for his membership?” He responded: “For teaching false doctrine.” Taken back I asked a follow-up question: “Well I just completed a week long course with him and I have read all his writings and I am not aware of anything false, so could you tell me precisely what it is that is false so I/we can know if we also are believing or teaching false doctrine.” Now he angrily retorted ” NO, you only need to know he is teaching false doctrine and that is for his leaders to decide.” It did not end there. Before SC started the assigned Apostle had my SP visit with me and warn me not to speak about Avraham and his case. I asked why? Again, told I was to obey. I asked “is there a time limit?
    My SP said “well at least while you are a bishop.” Okay. I had demons that caused me to obey but I have been released now for two decades, and I feel no hesitation in sharing this account because I agree with Ronan that we should all know exactly what it is that we must believe or cannot say/teach/share and be potentially subject to the spiritual death penalty.

    What happened in 1993 to Avraham in particular was a major shift for me personally–and for me ultimately a healthy one–though others might disagree. I refuse to defer to authority for authority sake alone. It is not in the spiritual DNA of those of us who have either descended from those that rejected spiritual oppression in any form or joined this faith by rejecting the spiritual teaching of our previous faith. Just weeks after this incidence, I was approached by a member of our HC who challenged me by stating: “You must choose to either believe an apostle of the Lord (BRM who opposed Gileadi’s “Davidic Servant” interpretation) or a jewish scholar.” My only reply to him then is the same one now: “I will follow the truth wherever it leads me.”

    and so will many of us follow our conscience/truth (as best as we can discern) even if it leads us into the margins or even outside the gate of our gentile church

    At the very minimum we should demand transparency as to what is or is not to believed/said or taught that merits the spiritual death penalty.

  23. Peter Yates says:

    Observer,

    So we should have excommunicated African Americans for protesting against not being allowed priesthood or temple blessings? And now current Church Leadership have thrown the likes of BY and BRM under the bus for espousing those sentiments as doctrine.

  24. Peter Yates says:

    Ron Madson,

    Thank you for your courage.

  25. Thanks for this excellent response, Ronan.

  26. My question is… if we believe “that the Lord will yet reveal, many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God…”

    How do we put a damper on that doctrinally?

    Were the people who advocated (against the will of many leaders) for the priesthood for all men – in the wrong?

    It just seems to me that in a church with continuing revelation, how can you eliminate the hope that what YOU care about may be one of the “great and important things.”

  27. Thank you Ronan. This helps me to feel less alone right now.

    I also appreciate your humor in the comment “at least the World Cup starts tonight.” I served a spanish-speaking mission stateside during the ’98 World Cup. If you want to see real contention in the church, attend a ward council meeting during the World Cup in which council members hail from the US, Mexico, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Just saying.

  28. Observer

    It is telling to me that the “very clear answer regarding ordination” by Elder Oaks was given to Kate Kelly and OW in a meeting to which they were denied admittance. Symbolically denied admittance even – since of course they could simply have listened on the internet – as a powerful message to them and all women that we are excluded.

  29. anonlds says:

    Thank you for your voice.

  30. Susanne says:

    Amen. Thank you for vocalising my jumbled thoughts.

  31. We will never know the full story. It is sad. I don’t know either person. I am confused. as far as Kelly goes, in the he. Letter on her site… http://ordainwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/K.-Kelly-Letter1-1.pdf. They are trying to find a way to meet with her. The location is NOT convenient, but they are willing to work on the timing. If she is not there, are they all to blame? Why aren’t her records where she is? What have they discussed already? I have no idea. As for Dehlin. Only know his stories. People are fascinating and think taking people wherever they are andlettingthem tell their story is powerful. I was given this link.. http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/229280355. Is it accurate? There is clearly more going on…but what? Asking to not be home taught isn’t an offense, it’s a choice. What have he and his bishop discussed? I don’t own what he’s said lately. I feel a lot like the people in those psychology cartoons who are touching part of an elephant and asked to identify it. I imagine both situations are complex and I haven’t the slightest idea what is going on, and doubt I ever will.

    I am sad.

  32. Haggoth says:

    Beautifully expressed, RJH.

  33. So sad. The issue of women will NEVER go away. What is happening now will de-convert many of the best and the brightest for generations, and all they had to do is say, “Welcome, come on in!”

  34. Nicely written, Ronan.

  35. Yours too, Dave.

  36. Amen x 1000, and thank you for writing this.

  37. I just wanted to point out that, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, it is impossible to cancel a valid baptism, confirmation, or ordination. The Church does not cancel the sacraments because She believes that she has no power to cancel these sacraments. According to Catholic teaching, these sacraments impart a character on the person (conforming them to Christ) in an eternal way. There is nothing a person (any person) can do to eliminate the character. That’s the reason that excommunication in the Catholic Church does not cancel the sacraments; because, from a Catholic perspective, excommunication is incapable of doing it.

  38. I have no words but thank you.

  39. Thank you, Ronan. You’ve said many true things here. This one struck me particularly: “but the fall-out — in the form of an emboldening of those in the church who try to stigmatise and marginalise those who waver – will make Mormon life increasingly intolerable for many members, women especially.” My husband read through 100+ comments to the Deseret News piece about Kate and John, and told me a great deal of them were enthusiastically supportive, almost gleeful, at what is happening. Is this what the Church wants to create? Heaven help us.

  40. The part I find most troubling is the way that Dehlin’s Stake President asked him to either resign or face Church discipline. It is one thing for a Church leader to call someone to repentance (including, if needed, through facing formal discipline). It is another thing entirely for a Church leader to ask someone to resign, to almost demand (under threat of discipline) that they separate themselves from the Church. That isn’t a call to repentance.

    That seemed strange as well. But I saw the letter from Dehlin’s stake president (it appears authentic) online. The subject of resignation was addressed because, according to the letter, Dehlin actually requested that his name be removed from visiting teaching and home teaching rolls, that he not be contacted, and that he not be considered a member of the ward. So the letter sought clarification on whether Dehlin was resigning his membership from the church.

  41. Corrina says:

    Thank you for this post and for giving voice to my feelings/thoughts on this.

  42. Mark B. says:

    It’s only appropriate to feel sad at this turn of events–even if one believes that the disciplinary councils are necessary. As to their necessity, I am not Kate Kelly’s or John Dehlin’s priesthood leader, and I don’t presume to be entitled to revelation on the question, although I can understand how Ms. Kelly’s actions could be seen as “[r]epeatedly act[ing] in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.”

    It would be most unfortunate if the council for Kate Kelly were held without her being there. Surely schedules can be coordinated to make that possible, and funds raised to pay the costs of transportation.

  43. No problems with stating your opinions on this case, though I think it is unfair to draw conclusions only from the two protagonists without having better understanding the viewpoint of the Church.

    However, I reject the argument that if the Church doesn’t do “X” then the pews will be empty. First, I’m not sure that maximizing filled pews and being popular should be the primary goal of the Church. Teaching the truth, popular or not, should be the aim, I would argue.
    Second, how well has pandering to agitators for female ordination or gay marriage gone for the Episcopal Church or the Community of Christ (RLDS)? Both have seen significant schisms of entire congregations as a result of these policies without significant increases in growth from the more liberal minded folks they were attempting to mollify or attract with the changes. As a result, I would argue that making such changes in the LDS Church would make the overall appeal of the Church diminish, not increase.

    In the case of Kate Kelly, she has specifically said she and her followers would settle for nothing less than female ordination — this is not the hallmark of a civil discussion on the possibilities of female ordination. I would argue that giving unacceptable ultimatums to any organization would probably lead those organizations to want to sever their relationship with the ones giving the ultimatums.

  44. Nice. Thanks.

  45. (I mean, nice post, Ronan. Thanks. I’ll confess to not having read the comments.)

  46. Thank you so much for this. Very Sad, I’ve been working with a few members one on one in an attempt to help them find their place here, that they are loved and welcome as they are. I’ve made some pretty good progress in places. Now a grenade blew up in the middle of all my work – back to square one. I simultaneously talked one member off of a ledge yesterday while a friend talked me off my own. This is a hard thing.

  47. >If you wanted to somehow prove that women’s voices are not fully appreciated in the church, you could do nothing better than to have an all-male panel try a woman in absentia.<

    Yes.
    What pains me is that Kate's leaders do not realize how strongly their actions point out that women's issues are very, very important in this church. John D.'s excommunication coming at the same time, which will be handled by a High Council court under the direction of a Stake Presidency, brings the issue into even starker relief.

    As I was told this weekend at the MHA, there need to be Malcolms as well as Martins in any civil rights movement. I am glad that Kate is willing to be the Malcolm at the same moment that I am sad for the personal cost she must bear.

  48. Observer-

    I find your view interesting in that I think the very opposite–I can understand the argument for excommunicating Dehlin (while not liking it one iota) but I really don’t get the action taken against Kate Kelly. She’s been respectful and made it clear she has a testimony of the divinity of the church.

    As for the “answer” from Oaks, I am married to as true a believing member as exists on the face of the Earth and even she admits she doesn’t understand what he was saying. She thinks she will understand someday, but she’s having trouble wrapping her head around the idea of “priesthood authority without holding the priesthood.” So I think some more explaining needs to be done before we can say there’s been an “answer.”

    On top of that, I taught the principle from Oaks’ talk to my 12-13 year old Sunday School class and was told by a very savvy young woman that I was teaching false doctrine. She whipped out “True to the Faith” and pointed out how it’s absolutely explicit that “priesthood authority” is given to MEN. The other young women nodded their heads in agreement. My counterpoint was that Oaks didn’t take away from that, but rather added to it, while inside I’m screaming, “Exactly! It doesn’t make a lot of sense!”

  49. Amen

  50. We are losing to many people for many different reasons, so I will also say amen. For those who are considering asking for their names to be removed from church membership as a show of solidarity, or in frustration that things will never change, please reconsider. Every loss, for whatever reason, weakens the body of Christ. Stay, or there is a part of all of us that is lost.

  51. Well said post, Ronan.

  52. Driving home from work I was thinking about the unfolding disaster in Iraq and realised that there really are more important things to worry about in the world. The impending disappearance of Chaldean Christianity in Assyria for one. But that’s also what bothers me the most: the world groans under all manner of evil and the kingdom of God expends most of its energy on nonsense.

  53. Guest Poster says:

    Thank you, kevinf, I’m also one who says, “stay in the church, if you can. If it is not toxic for you to do so.” We need people to work from the inside for change, as well as from the outside. On facebook I read a commenter who suggested that everyone resign their callings en masse instead! Made me lol to imagine the chaos that might ensue… :)

  54. Thank you, kevinf, I’m also one who says, “stay in the church, if you can. If it is not toxic for you to do so.” We need people to work from the inside for change, as well as from the outside. On facebook I read a commenter who suggested that everyone resign their callings en masse instead! Made me lol to imagine the chaos that might ensue… :)

  55. melodynew says:

    “. . . the world groans under all manner of evil and the kingdom of God expends most of its energy on nonsense.”

    How to make peace, how to make space and time for what matters. . . this is a constant struggle for me. Thanks for your eloquent post and for your comments, RJH.

    Now, I’m going for a walk by the river to enjoy a little solitude.

  56. “For those who are considering asking for their names to be removed from church membership as a show of solidarity, or in frustration that things will never change, please reconsider. Every loss, for whatever reason, weakens the body of Christ. Stay, or there is a part of all of us that is lost.”

    Amen, kevinf.

  57. April Young Bennett says:

    I fail to see how a willingness to “coordinate schedules” on behalf of the church is seen as reasonable while the church refuses to coordinate the location of the trial, hundreds of miles from where Kate lives. How many people are asked to leave their families and takes expensive journeys so that they can be punished by a bishop so far away? She now resides in Utah. Is there a lack of priesthood leaders in Utah? No one could meet with her in the state where she lives? Really? As for why Kate’s records are not with her, it is because her former bishop and stake president refused to transfer them. Apparently, a woman does not even have the right to declare her own address to the church and enroll in her own local ward.

  58. “If you wanted to somehow prove that women’s voices are not fully appreciated in the church, you could do nothing better than to have an all-male panel try a woman in absentia.”

    Indeed.

  59. Cristian Tomasetti says:

    “… I do not mean to suggest that Mormonism needs to follow Catholicism in its modes of discipline, just that we should recognise the incredible significance of what is being proposed when we speak of excommunication.”

    I do understand the significance, and I believe every Mormon person does as well. Mormonism is indeed quite demanding, in the right sense. You are missing, however, the most important element of an excommunication (have you ever been on the leadership side in one of those councils?), which is the fact that it is an act of love toward that person and also toward others. It is critical to understand that.

    “The Mormon Stories community is not really my thing but I have met John and found him to be a pleasant chap.”

    This does not have much to do with the issue at stake. Belonging to the church or not does not determine the pleasantness of a person.

    “I can imagine that a case can be made for mildly censuring John, given that his podcasts sometimes give voice (and have done for a long time and with a large audience) to critics of the church. His reach is such that the church is justified in taking him seriously, i.e. he is not just some guy with a blog and ten readers.”

    You do recognize then that he has been supporting the Church’s critics (as a minimum by providing them a large audience for their criticisms). That is, he has been supporting individuals whose words/actions are critical, and oppose the teachings, doctrine and practices of the Church. You also recognize that the Church is justified in considering seriously that issue. And that is precisely what is happening.

    “John reports that his Stake President has invited him to leave the church or face a trial. In my mind, that can only mean that the Stake President is already seriously considering excommunication rather than mild censure as the outcome of the court. Given what I said above about excommunication, this is very disturbing to me.”

    My guess is that the invitation was quite in the opposite: come to the trial or if you choose to be absent we may have to take action anyway.
    Also, you are forming an opinion (and influencing others via your opinion to form the same opinion since you are rather popular, something that gives you an added responsibility for your actions) suggesting that what the Stake President is doing is disturbing. You assume to know what the Stake president is thinking (“that can only mean”). That is quite assuming, since what you use as evidence is anything but solid. Thus, it shows a lack of understanding for how the process works. If you believe in the Church you should believe that the Stake President, his councilors and the whole Stake High Council, will carefully listen to the person, prayerfully consider the issue and will search for the Lord’s will (not theirs) in this matter, with the interest of that very person’s salvation (and that of others) at the core of this act of love. Importantly, you should know that the Lord will inspire, even reveal, His will to those leaders. Participating in such councils, I have experienced that multiple times, in fact every time. So, the final outcome should be a Lord-inspired decision. The Lord should decide, no matter what our uninformed opinions are.

    “If John were a Mormon authority or a teacher at BYU or for CES, I can see a Küngian censure as justified, but not excommunication, especially given that he is none of those things. I have not been in a ward in the church in the last few years (and on two continents) that has not had someone who considered themselves a fan of Mormon Stories. If John is excommunicated, it will be a blow to thousands.”

    A blow to who? To those that like to listen to or actively participate in criticizing the Church, its leaders, its doctrine, an so on.

    “That may partly be the point — it is John’s influence that warrants the trial — but this is not the 1990s:  social media will ensure that an excommunication will have no silencing effect. I think that disaffection will increase and am therefore struggling to see why anyone would want that.
    I would also like some clarity as to the real grounds of the heresy charge. The New York Times has reported that his Stake President has expressed concern regarding “some of [his] recent statements and actions regarding this church and [his] place in it,” citing an Internet posting in which Mr. Dehlin wrote that “he no longer believed many fundamental ‘truth claims’ the church makes.” Does this mean that simple unbelief warrants a heresy trial? What exactly has John Dehlin done wrong? ”

    No, that is incorrect. You even recognized it. He has actually been supporting the Church’s critics (as a minimum by providing them a large audience for their criticisms).

    “No doubt his local leaders will cite court confidentiality, but in our internet age, we need as much transparency as is possible or the painful miasma surrounding the doubting and disaffected will thicken.”

    The Lord decides what can be shared on social media and what needs to stay confidential, not us. In general the confidentiality is in fact a critical protection of the person who is subject to the disciplinary council.
    I will skip your part on the other person simply in the interest of time, but I think you can see my point of view.

    “I am a life-long Latter-day Saint, a returned missionary, and a member of the bishopric in my ward. The church means the world to me and I serve as honourably as my sinful nature will allow. I am a small part of an LDS intellectual conversation that tries honestly to wed study and faith for the benefit of the church.  I am trying to raise my children in the faith. Every Sunday I look at the emptying pews in my chapel in this small corner of the kingdom and feel disheartened. Our church is in serious trouble if its great modern crusade is seen to be the suppression of open discussion, the neglect of women’s voices, and an inability to raise its sights above the culture wars. Few converts will join such a church and our youth will increasingly find it intolerable.”

    While it is sad every time a member leaves the Church, the Church is poised to keep growing, the Lord promised that. The Church is not against open discussion, and I don’t see any suppression by our leaders of it. The point is that you cannot, by definition, be a faithful member of the Church and at the same time support publicly, facilitate the growth of, or even lead groups that are critical of the doctrines of the Church, its leaders etc.

    “This affects all of us, even the majority of the Saints who no doubt support these actions. The fact is that many of those rocked by these things are active Mormons who serve faithfully in their wards. I know that they are in a minority in the church, but they also tend to be people of great talent and experience and so their disaffection is a loss to more than just their own families. I know this because they are people I know, including members of my own family whose talents are really missed in wards that really need them. Their loss, or even their increasing apathy, will contribute to those empty pews remaining unfilled. The gospel of love, so desperately needed in a world in which we are crying out for the kind of principled leadership that can answer the great questions about conflict, about greed, about the environment, about the poor, about preaching Christ in a secular world, is being sold for a mess of boundary maintenance so narrow that it may one day exclude half of the church.
    I really pray for John and Kate and their families, and also for their church leaders who, for whatever reason, feel that their faith leaves them no choice but to do this.
    Mostly, I just feel really, really sad.”

    It is sad, but these situations are what make all of us grow, by choosing the direction we want to take in our lives. I pray for all of us that we may follow Christ, no matter how challenging that may be at times. We will all have doubts and challenges, it is part of the process. But, we do choose how we tackle those doubts, challenges. We can choose to become critical of the Church but then we cannot choose the consequences, which are the Lord’s decision. I know that He loves us and He will help us to solve those problems, clarify our doubts, and be close to Him if we humbly and honestly listen to His voice. But those are an important test of our faith when we don’t have the full solution of our problems spelled out in front of our eyes. What we choose to do and follow is up to us. Who do we love more: ourselves or Him? How many members have overcome so well these trials through their faith. May we do the same!

  60. “Apparently, a woman does not even have the right to declare her own address to the church and enroll in her own local ward.”

    It’s fairly standard operating procedure to place what’s called a move restriction on someone’s records to prevent someone facing discipline from transferring their records to another ward. You might disagree with this practice, but it is not unique.

  61. Ron Madson says:

    Memo to FP/Q12/”I am a Mormon” Campaign/Continuing Revelation Department: Excommunication for thoughts/words is so 15th century

  62. Observer says:

    McLean,

    I will freely admit that I don’t have as much familiarity with Dehlin and his situation. In fact, given the link to the letter he received, I find it more understandable now, particularly with regards the the resignation comments. Most of my familiarity with Dehlin comes second- and third-hand, and I hadn’t heard about some of his more recent writings (such as those involving the Tanners).

    I have a lot more familiarity with Kelly both because of the greater publicity surrounding Ordain Women, as well as my own personal experience with the people involved (having lived in the same Stake and still living in the area).

    As for Oaks’ talk, while parts of it leave many questions, there are significant parts that were explicitly clear. Particularly, his statement that: “The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”

    Yes, I know that many OW supporters claim that they still want the Brethren to “ask”, but I find that to be at best a fig leaf argument so they can continue without changing course. Does anyone seriously believe that any member of the Quorum of the 12 or First Presidency would have given a talk like that without spending a lot of time on his knees over that topic? Does anyone really think that he didn’t consult with President Monson, or others among the Apostles, who have similarly spent time on their knees?

    After a direct response like the above quote from Elder Oaks, Kate Kelly’s organization (and Kelly herself, in a personal and public manner) chose to “stay the course” and continue agitating for ordination after an explicit answer that the Brethren cannot change that. By choosing to continue as they have done, Ordain Women (and Kelly in particular) placed itself in direct and public opposition to the explicitly stated doctrinal teachings of the Church. That opened the door for potential discipline.

    At that point, what are her Priesthood leaders supposed to do? Ignore it and allow it to continue, while she explicitly and publicly advocates and proselytes a position contrary to Church doctrine? Or do they have a responsibility to take action from among the options that are available to them?

  63. You expressed my thoughts perfectly. Thank you.

  64. GK Risser says:

    Wow. This is exactly the blog post I was trying to write. Thank you. I’ve watched my generation leave the church my whole life, sadly. They get blamed for it, but I don’t see that it’s their fault. It’s a bitter plant that learns to grow in acidic soils.

  65. Ryan Mullen says:

    Thank you, RJH. I needed this today. My thoughts and prayers are with all involved.

  66. Ronan, every word. Thank you. Amen.

  67. 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.

  68. Ron Madson says:

    I could not agree more that we must listen to His Voice. Joseph understood that well when he read all of Ezekiel 14 at the first general conference and then re-read in later years to the Relief Society and explained what it meant, i.e., that IF we choose to follow “prophets” rather than direct voice of God we will be led eventually into error and be deceived.

    Lehi got the memo also. In his vision of the Tree of Life when he choose to follow a man dressed in white robes (representative of the priesthood) he was led into darkness. It was only when he called directly upon God did he hear the real voice and was led to the real source.

    It took some time but I realized that church/leaders only exist to point the way and to the extent that church/leaders require us to look to them and they choose to become the mediator/gatekeepers then amen to their priesthood.

  69. “The Lord decides what can be shared on social media and what needs to stay confidential, not us.”

    LOL!

  70. Kevin Barney says:

    Ronan, you’re the DB, as always.

  71. I think it’s disingenuous to say that the OW movement is merely seeking to open a dialogue about ordaining women to the priesthood. They are demanding that women be ordained to the priesthood and are unwilling to heed any prophetic counsel that suggests ordaining women to the priesthood is contrary to the will of God. Not only that, but they seek to draw others to their cause and away from the teachings of the Church, which is apostasy defined.

  72. Steve Evans says:

    Jess, each of your claims can easily be demonstrated to be false – are you sure you don’t want to retract or qualify your comment?

  73. wyomormon says:

    I am with Observer on this one. We have (parts?) of the letters from the respective stake presidents in this case. But if all we had were these letters alone, without any of the words or spin of Kelly or Dehlin, how outraged could we get? Both presidents express love for their parishioner. Its pure cynicism to discount their sincere love out of hand. Both seem to me to have agonized over the proper course. Both are entitled to the influence of the Spirit, and seem to believe they have received it. I have to read your post, RJH, as suggesting no disciplinary council should be able to decide for excommunication for apostasy. I can’t agree.

  74. Very powerfully said, Ronan; thank you much for writing this. (And Ron, thanks for sharing your Gileadi story; I know of a few other fairly prominent and very faithful Mormon intellectuals who similarly were flummoxed by how he was treated by the church, and have stories like yours.)

  75. This is a wonderful post.

    A relevant excerpt from An Interview with Chieko Okazaki (a member of the RS general board and the first non-white GA), discussing racial prejudice in the church in the 1950’s:

    Chieko Okazaki: “Why should I belong to this Church when I’m not accepted? But it must be for a reason that I’m here.” I gradually learned that part of that reason was so people would learn how to accept people who are not of their color.”

    Greg Prince: But let’s dig down into that question a little more. At its base, what is the real answer? Why did you stay when you could have left?

    Chieko Okazaki: I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings.

    Greg Prince: And you saw them within this church?

    Chieko Okazaki: I did.

    Greg Prince: Isn’t that what it comes down to?

    Chieko Okazaki: It does… [interview continues]

    Our church has come a long way and it has a long way to go. But I hope and pray we can be like Sister Okazaki, and follow Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ even when we see things happen that we disagree with and even when we feel unwanted.

    The full text can be found here. The entire interview is wonderful.

    https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V45N01_CO.pdf

  76. Marc, June 12, 2014 at 8:08 am:

    Do you have a source for the letter from John Dehlin’s stake president? In the letter, the stake president sounded a lot more reasonable than I had previously imagined.

  77. it's a series of tubes says:

    SL Tribune has published them via Scribd.

  78. “Jess, each of your claims can easily be demonstrated to be false – are you sure you don’t want to retract or qualify your comment?”

    Like everyone else here, I’ve been watching this OW since it went public, and the best that can be said here is that *you interpret* Jess’s claims to “easily be demonstrated to be false.” I don’t. Let’s not pretend that this comes down to objectively interpreting objective evidence, as though we were looking at a row of numbers whose stated sum is either wrong or right. Whether you find Jess’s comment to “easily be demonstrated to be false” depends almost entirely on how you subjectively interpret what OW has said and done. I see it the same way she does, and whether that opinion ultimately ends up being correct or incorrect, it isn’t from a lack of examining the same statements and actions that you have.

    It also bears remembering that the Godbeites were really well intentioned too.

  79. Hi Genevieve,

    What it’s a series of tubes said. I agree it makes the local leaders sound more reasonable.

    I am sad because so many are hurting over this. And we all should be hurting because it involves a brother and sister. Zion is a community and we all lose when someone leaves (or is removed).

    That said, disciplinary councils as reported in the press are always one-sided. When one side maintains confidentiality and the other side does not, it is not a fair fight in the court of public opinion. My guess is that the local bishops and stake presidents involved are: 1) sad over this as well; 2) made attempts to counsel with both parties before it came to this; and 3) trying to act according to what they believe is Heavenly Father’s will.

  80. These are very insightful comments on the issue, Ronan — thank you very much for sharing them in such an articulate and sincere manner. Much to ponder.

    And I too hope only for the best for the Church and its continued vitality and ability to attract converts who wish to become adopted sons and daughters of Christ through baptism and join the cause of Zion with us in the Church. I agree that the Culture Wars have eclipsed our discourse in the Church nearly so completely that it has become a major stumbling block for our missionary work. This will continue as Millennials and the generations after them who are accustomed to women and men having equal input in policy-making roles in society become disillusioned at the lack of female input at decision making levels, particularly at the highest levels, in the Church that we are taught to regard as perfect in its organization.

  81. Kimi Martin says:

    Cristian Tomasetti-Thank you for expressing so well what I wanted to say.
    We don’t know all the facts and will never know. How can someone (the author of this post, whoever he is) form such an opinion, write it out for all the world to see while only having a small one-sided piece of the puzzle? Seems like hubris to me, damaging hubris unfortunately.

  82. I (overall) loved my time at BYU. I have a close relationship with my (mostly) Mormon family. I was a RS president, which is about as high as someone with two XX chromosomes can hope to go in leadership, when I was 17. But the events of the past year have shoved me out the door without so much as a by-your-leave. I hope for the sake of those who stay that the forces of fascist-like thought die out or are overpowered by the voices of reason and openness. (e.g., Uchtdorf)

    Unlike many, I’m not saddened. More angry than anything. I think this is a wake-up call to those who think they can change the organization from within. The “living” nature of the Church seems to have frozen sometime around Eisenhower, in my view. I know many, many people who feel they can only find a community within the Church’s walls, but I think that these actions should give all liberal, New Order, and doubting Mormons serious pause.

  83. Excellent post. Thanks.
    You say (and I agree): “The scriptural warrant for excommunication is sound, and I will not argue against it.” However, I would argue that the “sound scriptural warrant” is only for a separation-exclusion-withdrawal-of-fellowship sense of excommunication. That there is much more to study and debate about the cancellation-of-sacraments sense of excommunication.
    Also, without sources or citations, I have an anecdotal understanding that the charge of apostasy is really difficult (for reasons you highlight mostly by way of questions), and that in a formal or legalistic sense the ultimate charge may be disobedience. As in “you were told to stop and you didn’t, and you continue in your refusal, and therefore you stand in a state of disobedience–>defiance–>apostasy.” Makes for a cleaner less debatable decision.

  84. I have yet to get an explanation why Pres. (then Elder) Benson spoke to a John Birch Society gathering, the day after Pres. McKay (AND his 2 Counselors) signed a letter, denouncing the JBS, by name, along with other political organizations.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1908&dat=19630121&id=k2EfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ldQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2884,963782

    No declining to speak by Pres. Benson after that letter? Yikes. Why go against Pres. McKay? No discipline for that? Going against Church Leaders is OK for a Leader, but, not us average types?

  85. My understanding is that Kate Kelly has stated that she will accept nothing less than female ordination. That seems to me to be telling God that He must make changes in His church to suit her, whether He wants to or not. If that isn’t apostasy, I don’t know what is. I sincerely hope that this issue can be resolved so Sister Kelly is not excommunicated, but that is between her and her priesthood leaders. I don’t know anything about John Dehlin, but if he doesn’t believe in the church, why would he want to stay anyway?

  86. Comments now back on. Had to step out for a while.

  87. There is no justification whatsoever to be told by ‘authority’ what it is that we must believe. If we are forced by compulsion to believe, then there is no need for Faith, and without faith there is no reason for patience. Without patience, there is no possible way to endure to the end. I think we have the responsibility to debate in our own conscience the uniqueness of doctrine and the variety of interpretations over decades our own minds can entertain. What is ‘exactly right’ today may contribute tomorrow to some concerns. We are to study it out for ourselves, which of course will cause us to have an interpretation of doctrine custom fit and very comfortable. Like wearing a new suit to a meeting when everyone there has a new suit as well. But, they are all different colors and patterns, differing is size and tailoring, but all keep us from being naked.

  88. “I don’t know anything about John Dehlin, but if he doesn’t believe in the church, why would he want to stay anyway?”

    Sharee, John Dehlin has taken great pains to articulate exactly why he stays, in a podcast conveniently titled “Why I Stay.” http://mormonstories.org/john-dehlin-why-i-stay/

  89. Member #000-1344-7912 says:

    Loud Amens to the OP.

    And my initial reaction is to agree with this comment too, and have expressed the same opinions to all my friends who have left: “For those who are considering asking for their names to be removed from church membership as a show of solidarity, or in frustration that things will never change, please reconsider. Every loss, for whatever reason, weakens the body of Christ. Stay, or there is a part of all of us that is lost.”

    I would love to stay in the church and “fight for the right.” I love this church that raised me and I still think it has the potential to become a truly Zion society.

    But then I ask myself if Dieter Uchtdorf can’t improve things from his high position, how can I possibly improve anything as an everyday church member? (Not to put words into Bro. Uchtdorf’s mouth, but lately he has been my biggest hope for the church to start behaving in a more Christlike way.)

  90. “There is no justification whatsoever to be told by ‘authority’ what it is that we must believe. If we are forced by compulsion to believe, then there is no need for Faith, and without faith there is no reason for patience.”

    Sincere question: do you really believe that these disciplinary councils are being convened solely because of personal beliefs?

    We are all on the spectrum between atheism and perfect faith. Lack of belief, or disbelief, is not a reason for church discipline.

  91. fuddyduddy says:

    Dieter Uchtdorf’s words last October spoke deeply to my soul at a time of questioning and were incredibly reassuring: “There is room for you in this Church.”

    There is room for those with questions. That’s what he taught. And I don’t doubt that he, for one, believes it. But this new development leaves me questioning whether anybody else believes it.

  92. well, I believe my tears have dried. I’ve read every bloggernacle article (ahem, most) . . . and I’m done. What are the stages of grief again? denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance? Hopefully I’m near the end. Regardless of how much I agreed/disagreed with either of them, I feel I was a part of them and they a part of me – by my mere unorthodox stances and questions. Where to go from here? If these actions are from SLC I have nothing to fear because my blog is a mere blip on the radar . . . but if it truly is local, I have exposed myself as local leaders know where and how I comment online. What if local leaders were to interpret this as being applicable for my public questions (shut down your blog or else…)? I just don’t know.

  93. it's a series of tubes says:

    Fuddyduddy: questioning != advocacy.

  94. Angela C says:

    “Dieter Uchtdorf’s words last October spoke deeply to my soul at a time of questioning and were incredibly reassuring: “There is room for you in this Church.” There is room for those with questions. That’s what he taught. And I don’t doubt that he, for one, believes it. But this new development leaves me questioning whether anybody else believes it.” Talk is cheap; I don’t believe it anymore. I wish I could, but I don’t see how.

  95. fuddyduddy says:

    @it’s a series of tubes: You’re part of the problem.

  96. Butch Bowman says:

    Thank you for expressing so eloquently what so many of us are thinking and feeling right now. I am deeply saddened and distressed.

  97. I respectfully disagree.

    First, I am grateful for John Dehlin’s work over the past years in his production of even-handed interviews of people on all sides of most subjects that interest Latter-Day Saints. I believe he has helped many stay in the church, and has helped a lot of people work through difficult church history questions. However, I have followed the statements he has made on Facebook for the past few months and knew that a church court was inevitable. He wrote that he thought the church was a fraud. He is openly critical of the brethren and rejects basic tenets of the faith.

    I have enjoyed all of his interviews, even of those that were critical of the church. But when he assigned heroic status to the Tanners I was shocked. These are some of the most vehement enemies of the church and he applauded them and celebrated their life work. The Tanners were some of the earliest publishers of the temple ceremony and temple clothing.

    That his Stake President has invited him to either resign or face a church court seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    Regarding the OW movement, it seems that if someone who is in good standing with the church makes a public spectacle of agitating the church to be allowed into a general priesthood session and has been asked to stop, then refuses to stop publicly agitating the church for not radically changing its doctrine then they, too, should be subject to a church court. I agree, however, that it is underhanded to hold the court across the country in a former stake.

  98. Melissa says:

    Thank you for writing this. Kate Kelly and John Dehlin helped me stay connected to Mormonism, even when we don’t feel like we fit in. They, and people like them here on the bloggernacle, gave me the vocabulary to talk about what it was in Mormonism that didn’t feel right to my own conscience and what did still feel right. They gave me hope that there was room for different perspectives and different faith journeys, but if they are forced out of the church, it seems there’s no room for those who voice questions and admit doubts. My heart aches for Kate, John, their families, and for the church. This is a great loss.

  99. RBaughman says:

    If you are referring to our opposition to gay marriage when you mention that we can’t rise above the “culture wars”, I think you are going to be gravely disappointed in the future of the church and its standing relative to the world. The Church will be increasingly at odds with a “progressive” vision of society and I believe this will be the cause of a great sifting in the church. These excommunications will be only one chapter in this latter-day sifting.

  100. Laura West says:

    Here’s a question: is it easier to get excommunicated from the Mormon Church for voicing a dissenting opinion or is it easier to get excommunicated from bycommonconsent.com for voicing a dissenting opinion? I say it is the latter.

  101. Angela C says:

    Laura West: definitely the latter. But our potlucks are better.

  102. it's a series of tubes says:

    @fuddyduddy: Stating that questioning and advocacy are not the same thing makes me “part of the problem”? Chuckles.

  103. Even if John and Kate are excommunicated, that hardly means there is no place within the church for those with questions, doubts, or even disagreements. To me, the difference between questioning, doubting, and disagreeing and what Kate and John do is pretty clear, but that’s been discussed ad nauseum in multiple places and I doubt anybody’s opinion has changed.

    I listed to the Trib-Talk interview, and John sounds like he always does, saying he’s being punished for his doubts, for his views on homosexuality, not believing the Book of Mormon’s central tenant (honestly, he said that) that God curses evil people with dark skin, etc. I’ve followed him for years, and whatever “doubts” he’s had, he seems to have resolved against the church and he’s pretty outspoken about it. But I doubt his beliefs have anything to do with his discipline hearing. He’s been leveraging his insider status to attack the church and carefully lead Mormons in faith crisis away from it. He apparently enjoys what he does, has gotten a lot of love for it, and has even made a profession of it.

    Arguing that excommunicating John will hurt the church because of all those who’ll follow him doesn’t account for the fact that if he’d been excommunicated earlier, fewer people would have left.

  104. I have a hard time understanding why anyone is having this conversation. First, the lets received by the referenced individuals are PRIVATE and should not have been released to the press or online. This is NO ONE’S business but theirs and their leaders. By going public and dragging the whole of church membership and countless others into it, only seeks to further divide church membership and cause more dissention. We don’t know what exactly has happened, what has been said, etc., nor should we. This has NO bearing whatsoever on my salvation, and I am no way involved. Who am I to question their priesthood leaders? The church is entering a pivotal time and it is time to separate the wheat from chaff even more aggressively than in the past. The issues of gay marriage, women in the priesthood, etc. may be ‘socially acceptable’ but it has been made very clear by the highest level of church leadership these doctrines will not change. Satan will use these issues and even this discussion of someone else’s possible church discipline to sway people away from the church. It starts here and progresses. What do we question next? My whole point isn’t to blindly follow without question, but to question and seek answers when appropriate. Discussing someone else’s private matter with the church (even if they have now made it public) is inappropriate and dangerous. We have no right to demand transparency on their church courts, they are not for us, nor do they apply to us. It is sad anytime anyone faces church discipline, but I know if it were me, it would be private and I wouldn’t want every average joe out there discussing any of my transgressions. We should respect their privacy (even if they don’t respect it). I would suggest instead of being so concerned about them, their priesthood leaders, and their salvation, we concentrate on our own salvation. If you have serious struggles and questions regarding these individuals’ circumstances, pray for understanding. Ask your bishop for guidance and counsel. DO NOT be internet warriors discussing someone else’s issues and question situations that we really know nothing about.

  105. Martin, so what does that say about me and the many like me that navigated our faith transitions with his help, and because of him we are -in- the church?

  106. I would suggest taking a look at Dan Peterson’s observations at his blog at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2014/06/kelly-and-dehlin-further-observations.html. And then Greg Smith’s two articles regarding john Dehlin at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2014/06/the-pending-cases-of-john-dehlin-and-kate-kelly.html. Sister Kelly decided to take on the First Presidency and appears to have lost. And as for Brother Dehlin, what can I say? Dr.Smith’s two articles fully demonstrate why Brother Dehlin tried so hard to keep them from seeing the light of day. He’s not the paragon of light and truth some would suggest.

  107. There is a real chill in the air right now which will become a total freeze over of hell if Kelly and Dehlin are excommunicated. No one is safe from the wrath of BKP and DHO right now as they purge the church. The Mormon Moment is gone for good and is not coming back. Here in the Midwest, the church is in decline. Wards are the size of branches, and branches are being closed. We have more missionaries but few converts. There are so many inactive members, the EQ doesn’t even talk about “doing your home teaching” anymore. There simply aren’t enough active priesthood holders.

  108. Two points to not a trend (or purge) make.

  109. I disagree with the chill to freeze statement. Most faithful members I know (and confirmed by a recent Pew poll regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood) will be unaffected by these two disciplinary actions. As for the ranks of the inactive, in my experience, Matthew 7 (the parable of the sower), John 6:66 ( “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”), 2 Nephi 9 ( to be learned is good if one hearkens to the counsels of God), our belief that Satan will rule with blood and horror on the earth, and Matthew 7 again (wide is the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction, and strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.). Any purge worth talking about that is taking place in the kingdom right now is the natural purge of distancing oneself from the Spirit through disobedience to God and his servants. I lament the loss of any fellow member, but I remain as a faithful member of the church because I know the Restored Gospel is true and am not interested in being overcome by pride or Satan.

  110. This general conference talk by Elder Holland helped me to understand the church’s position. Essentially, these individuals have gotten to the point that they are influencing OTHERS to break commandments, such as paying tithing, etc. If the church does nothing, it can be interpreted as advocacy.

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/the-cost-and-blessings-of-discipleship?lang=eng

    “So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).”

  111. A deeply disappointed sister. says:

    “If you wanted to somehow prove that women’s voices are not fully appreciated in the church, you could do nothing better than to have an all-male panel try a woman in absentia.”

    Exactly. .

  112. I’ve been watching the Bloggernacle light up over the last couple of days with a moderate curiosity. However, tonight was the first time I saw John’s MormonStories post asking for messages for his family. I did not read all 968 (and counting) responses. The majority of those I did read were thanking John for helping them ease their transition out of the Church. I wonder if any of those people noticed the hollow irony of that “comfort.”

  113. I just wanted to point out that Hans Kung committed heresy, not apostasy. For Catholics, heresy is the denial of a point of Church doctrine. Apostasy is to reject the faith entirely.

    This is one thing that’s odd for me as a Catholic: to hear Mormons refer to heretics as “apostates,” or to use the two terms interchangeably.

  114. Bullseye DQ

  115. Smells like an LDS death wish of a women’s rights attorney, especially where she stated absolute surprise at censure. Much needed sympathy and tactical victory personally.

  116. Joseph Smith said: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latterday Saints.

  117. @Josh: I must say, I agree with you wholeheartedly! Very well said.

  118. Andrew Price says:

    Thank you for the OP. My take away is that it is ok to have doubts but not to talk about them to others. It is ok to think something is wrong, but not to suggest it could change. You are either 100% behind everything the brethren say (even if hey contradict themselves) or you are out. What a lonely existence and a hopeless place has the church become. I for one worship God and the care deeply about the gospel as I understand it, but I have truly lost faith in the institution of the church. The sadness seems omnipresent and that should not be the feeling when thinking about the church.

  119. Apostasy will get worse in the last days. Many will fall away. It has been prophesied and yet we don’t seem to heed the warnings. Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that many will fall away from the church, some of the very elect also. Becoming disillusioned and disgruntled for justifiable reasons is going to be more commonplace, folks. Wake up! Administering to the poor, sick, widows, etc. Why don’t these groups and intellectuals focus on that– charity, instead of whether or not women hold the priesthood, or whether or not early events in the church or fundamental truths are actually fundamental truths, or a myriad of other doubts we have all thought about at one time or another? These are distractions from the pure gospel of Christ. When these things that distract and detract take over and influence others to be distracted, Satan is winning the battle for your personal apostasy. And you will feel justified. And for what, and at what price. When people start questioning the church in such fundamental ways I simply cannot understand why they don’t go find a church that meets their criteria and be done with it, instead of trying to change the church they profess to believe in. And no, I do not lack compassion, just seriously wondering. Isn’t this like being unhappy in a marriage and hoping your spouse will change? How has that worked out?

  120. Yeah, those intellectuals.

    Go administer. Lazy selfish apostates.

    Probably all like Obama and Harry Reid too

    We should get rid of all of them

  121. Naismith says:

    About Avraham Gileadi, his family subleased for a summer in our ward at BYU. He hometaught us one month, when I was 9 months pregnant. He informed me that I should not have the baby in a hospital, because the staff would put the 666 mark on the baby’s forehead in invisible ink. As a convert of less than 3 years, I was pretty confused and offended. Let’s just say that while we had thought about asking the home teachers for a blessing for the impending childbirth, we did not.

    I realize that a lot of well intentioned hometeachers spout various doctrines and we don’t worry too much about apostasy in that context :) But I was not the least bit surprised to hear of the church action if he also brought that kind of thing into his classroom and writings.

    As well as he wasn’t anything close to being a feminist, so I shake my head at how he got lumped with the others as the SS.

  122. Bored in Vernal’s comment re needing “Malcolms” as well as “Martins” in the movement reminds me of Tina Fey’s anecdote in Bossypants, “Only in comedy,does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity.” It would be hilarious if it weren’t so damned depressing that a nice Mormon lady, wearing modest attire and speaking calmly and pleasantly to her desire to hold the priesthood BECAUSE she recognizes the authority of the Brethren…can earnestly be compared to the tactics of Malcolm X. It is a very small faith, a faith crippled by conformity and lashed to hidebound convention that insists on excommunicating members who offer robust questions. And it could be so much more. It could be expansive and shocking in its originality and purpose. Church leadership has this great gospel, it is a shame they so rarely use it.

  123. Ron Madson says:

    crazywomancreek—-FTW!

  124. Sigh. Can we please be intellectually honest about the fact that these events have little to do with someone merely “asking questions?”

  125. Richard Redick says:

    Ronan, thank you for a very well thought out article. You have provided some calm, some logic, and some healing to my troubled soul. I have just been sick over these threats of excommunication. And, like you, I have been deeply puzzled over how this actually benefits the whole body of Christ. Some of those leaving replies have taken issue with the Ordain Women crowd seeking admittance to Priesthood Meeting when advised not to. I ask, why would that warrant excommunication. I see it merely as an act of civil disobedience. During the Civil Rights Movement, activists committed acts of civil disobedience, and for that they suffered some legal penalties (and some illegal ones that never should have happened), but they were not stripped of their citizenship in the nation. Excommunication strips us of our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Any mere mortal man who sits on a disciplinary council should consider that deeply; very deeply, and for a long time. He should ask himself “dare I even think to go there….do the circumstances come even remotely close to make such a drastic and penalizing decision?”

  126. Martin Holden says:

    Excellent article Ronan. These matters are always complex but I agree that no matter the rights and wrongs the church can only be the loser here. After all the recent good work it is hard to see how these actions help to diversify the church and they certainly will reinforce the isolation and remoteness from church that some members feel.

  127. “Kate Kelly wants the priesthood but she wants it in the Mormon way.”

    Well, no, not exactly. It’s subtle but pretty clear.

    I have “lots of feelings” about this whole thing, as my daughter would say. I think it’s all very tragic. At the same time, I was cringing because it was pretty obviously coming. The irresistable force was cruising full-speed toward the immovable object. Here’s my reasoning:

    Words matter. Language has meaning. Kate Kelly knows this; as an attorney, it’s how she makes her living.

    The OW mission statement is very clear. It doesn’t really leave room for revelation, it doesn’t seek further guidance from prophetic leadership. It states that the OW movement “believes women *must* be ordained”, is “*committed to work* for equality and the ordination of Mormon women”, and they state that they “intend to put [them]selves in the public eye and call attention to the *need* for the ordination of Mormon women” [emphases added]. That is not a humble, compromise-seeking position, and it places itself in direct opposition to the current position of Church leadership. Further, the statement “[w]e sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer,” in context of the absolute positions noted (“must,” “committed,” “need”), is not an offer to accept guidance. It’s an invitation to the Church leadership to get their thinking in line with OW. It’s an open challenge.

    In effect, they’re saying, “We are in the right, and Church leaders are wrong. Take this matter to the Lord in prayer and get yourself straight.” It is difficult to believe that the language used was accidental or casual. It was intentional. It appears that this has not gone unnoticed in SLC.

    Both sides now seem to be saying this, and this is unfortunate. If we’re willing to excuse the one side for that approach, we shouldn’t be too harsh on the other for taking the same approach, simply because we disagree with their conclusions, tactics, or attitude. We simply mourn.

    I think this denouement was manufactured intentionally, or at least not unwelcome. I am not implying any ill intent by so saying – I think motives are all good, which only adds to the tragedy. It may be that the intent is to force awareness, an awakening, a mini-martyrdom, a Birmingham Jail watershed moment. It may even accomplish that end; it remains to be seen. The Lord works in mysterious ways through imperfect, and often stubborn and wilful, humans. He wins in the end, and we either go with him or attempt to break ourselves against him.

  128. A generic comment that could come after most comments here came from Tim: “Can we please be intellectually honest about the fact that these events have little to do with someone merely ‘asking questions?’”No; “there is a road to the heart and it doesn’t go through the intellect.’ G K Chesterton

  129. Hey, you can submit a testimony for Kate Kelly’s trial (if you feel like OW or Kate Kelly has helped you) here:

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/19bCaS35NDDCzP6hwhcUKJFIXdIxxmfC4SEPrhYS5tDA/viewform

  130. I think it’s more than obvious than neither Kelly nor Dehlin are being called to discipline simply for “asking questions.”

    Both of them headed up organizations in pretty blatant and obvious opposition to the LDS Church.

    I would also heavily dispute the claim that John Dehlin’s work has been a positive thing for the LDS Church. The Mormon Stories community is mainly a place for people on their way out. I see no evidence that it’s kept anyone in the LDS Church in the long term.

    Eventually it’s fans seem to eventually reach the jaded conclusion that all the Church’s faith claims are rubbish – exactly the way John Dehlin admits he has. Given how little of our faith claims Dehlin still believes, I’m surprised he’s still in the Church at all.

  131. it's a series of tubes says:

    Dehlin was a driving force in leading some of my immediate family members out of the church. His crocodile tears will find little sympathy from me.

  132. My 9 year old daughter just asked me this morning if a girl can be a prophet. I told her about Deborah from the old testament and the spirit of prophecy but she was wondering about our church now (of course). I explained that no, not now, and not in many other churches either. But that church leaders love girls and say they have different roles that are just as important. She humphed, sighed, and said “I think they should let the girls decide what they want to do.” Me too sweetie. I am heartbroken by all of this. Yes, the church has a right to do boundary maintenance but I’m so sad about who the church seems to be telling is outside of their boundaries. I had hoped we were improving in our gender relations and acceptance of questioning generally but it seems like the hope was false. Very sad.

  133. Didn’t John Dehlin state on the Recovering from Mormonism message board that he himself thinks more people have left Mormonism through his community building work than have stayed?

  134. Ronan, how do you know that Cliven Bundy has not had church discipline? I believe the vast majority of people who have had it don’t want to make it public. Kate Kelly wants to make it public because it fits into her overall strategy. Because of the Church’s wanting to protect Kelly and others subject to these councils, it is the Church’s voice that is (admittedly by itself) stifled.

  135. Richard Redick says:

    If Cliven Bundy has had church disipline, I would think it would be in the Church’s interest to make it public. The Apostle Paul taught something to the effect that those who offend before many, should be rebuked before many. Since Cliven has misbehaved so publicly, it would do the Church well to let the remainder of the members know “this is behavior unbecoming a Latter-day Saint.” Of course, I remind myself that – in the past – the Church has, sometimes, chosen to to this, but AFTER all criminal trials have concluded (don’t want results of church courts to influence outcomes in the public courtrooms.).

  136. notsurprised says:

    RJH,
    You cite the Catholic Church’s stance on excommunication, but ignore that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is neither a branch nor a break-off of the Catholic Church, and therefore its practices and beliefs, while we respect them, are irrelevant.

    You are in a bishopric, and doubtless know all church court proceedings are private. Because both activists have substantial followings, and they’ve chosen to publish the letters they received, you say the Church should publish the proceedings of the Church courts. Should celebs and members of note be treated differently by the Church out of fear of what others will think?

    As a member of a bishopric, you know that church courts are called with the intent to do what is best for the person in question primarily, as well as those they influence. By saying the results of the courts should be made public, you’re in essence saying: “Public opinion matters more than God’s will. Don’t trust us (your leaders) to transmit God’s will to you. Put your faith in the arm of flesh (public opinion).”

    You also know that Church disciplinary actions are made with the intent to bless the lives of those affected. By revoking baptismal and temple covenants and any ordinations, but encouraging the members to continue attending church, reading their scriptures, fasting, praying, etc, Church leaders intend is to help those individuals turn back to God. It is not, regardless of Kelly’s claim, akin to “spiritual death.” Again I ask….should people who’ve become notable by their behavior be treated as less worthy of that loving discipline than others, simply because their ability to call attention to their situations might cause the Church to look less accepting…less politically correct?

    I know little about Dehlin, and only a little about Kelly, but it sounds manipulative and insincere of her to say she’s “very, very, very sad,” about her membership being called into question, and claim that she can’t return to Va to attend the proceedings where her church membership…something she claims to value so very much may be revoked. She’s an attorney. If it really mattered to her, she’d never feign inability to attend.

    Will others voluntarily leave the church because of Dehlin’s and Kelly’s leaving or excommunications? Yes. But on the other hand, Dehlin and Kelly aren’t very good reasons to be in the Church in the first place. Christ is the reason. Let’s hope people remember that.

  137. I don’t think Kate and John expected a different outcome. They are too smart for that. I also think their “sadness” over these events is a manipulation tactic. Why else would they clamor for publicity? Why call all the media? If they were heartbroken this would be a private matter for them as it is for the church.

    I am completely unsympathetic to this crowd who tends to put their faith in themselves believing themselves too brilliant to be “blind followers” like the rest of us. Those following Kate and John are followers too – they just follow Kate and John not the prophets.

    I don’t believe these two are so brilliant that the brethren and sisters in the highest counsels in the church have not had many of the ideas these two present as their original thoughts. I trust the Lord is the head of this church and He will make his will known to his prophets. This I trust – not Kate and John.

    The church has had many people leave it. I don’t believe those who have jumped on the “Mormon intellectual” bandwagon and will leave the church over this will destroy the church. I believe in the church – from it’s miraculous founding down to our current prophets and leaders. I have felt the effects of living the teachings of the church in my life. I know it is true. I feel deeply loyal and committed to the churches’ teachings – all of them. I have had too many sacred experiences to have a few disgruntled people (who believe they have been somehow wronged by the church) ever sway my testimony.

    I am sincerely sorry for you and your crisis of faith. I am grateful these things that bother you do not bother me. I see human weakness in the church, just as all of us do, but the weakness I am most concerned about is my own. I’m not worried human weakness will destroy the church. If it could it would have done it years ago. I believe that the Lord reveals all truth in His own time and I seek for His counsel not to counsel Him.

    John, Kate and all of their disgruntled followers, for the most part, know what they are doing. They are trying to win sympathizers to pull down with them. I will not go down that road. The church is too precious to me. It seems to me that some people just have no idea what we have! Otherwise, the small, trivial things these two like to complain about would not cause so many to lose their faith.

  138. I think that will do now, folks. We shall see how this all pans out. Peace be with you all.

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