To the Church and to Ordain Women

By Mathew and Ronan, BCC Bloggers

The Problem

As is now well known, the leader of the Ordain Women movement, Kate Kelly, has been called before a disciplinary council. There has been much speculation about what role the church’s senior leadership played in the decision to convene the council. The church’s newsroom has issued an official statement that says in part that “[d]ecisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.”  While it may be entirely proper to leave the  final “decisions” to those church leaders who know her best, we feel that church headquarters can still play a positive mediating role in a case that already has and will continue to have church-wide ramifications.

Thus far there has been blame enough to go around in the OW matter. Listing each side’s offenses would be tedious and likely devolve into another round of finger pointing. We will not itemize them because we do not want to detract from the purpose of this post (and comments that do not abide by this sentiment are not welcome). Suffice it to say that fair-minded individuals can find multiple actions from both sides that have been insensitive and uncharitable. These misunderstandings and disputes have resulted in bad feelings that are harmful to the church, a state of affairs that contradicts a command the Lord gave to the church at an early conference to esteem one another and to “be one, and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:24, 27).

A Request of the Church

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was organized in part to “build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same” (D&C 107:33). Because the Kelly affair is more than a local matter, we believe that it would be welcomed by many if the senior leadership of the church were to intervene. It seems much good could be accomplished if Salt Lake were to step in and de-escalate the situation by asking Kelly’s local leaders to postpone the disciplinary council so that all parties (Kelly, the Virginia leadership, and Salt Lake) can meet.

The church would gain a lot from this. Besides beginning the work of healing the wounds that have opened up in our community, it models to its membership what civil dialogue looks like. It signals that it is listening to the concerns of all of its membership and not just those it deems worthy of being listened to. It exhibits grace and generosity of spirit to a world that is watching. Perhaps most importantly, it acts with compassion and charity towards someone who is suffering.

Some may say that seeking reconciliation will show weakness on the church’s part. Such arguments should be ignored. As President Uchtdorf stated at the October 2010 general priesthood session: “[W]hen we focus on our own importance, power, or reputation; when we dwell upon our public image and believe our own press clippings — that’s when the trouble begins; that’s when pride begins to corrupt.” This moment in our history requires us to put aside personal and institutional pride even if those we disagree with have not.

A Request of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women

If the church were to reach out in this way, we hope that OW would respond with magnanimity. The movement feels wounded and let down but any hand that is offered in friendship is a hand worth taking, even at this late stage. If there is any hope of rapprochement, we would ask OW to take it. Perhaps there is some act of submission to church authority that they can countenance, not one that would fatally compromise their deepest beliefs but one which would demonstrate their basic faithfulness to the church. Now is the time for such generosity.

We recognize that it takes great courage to stand up for what you believe in in public, courage most of us lack. It may well be that there is nothing OW can do, short of disbanding, that will please the church. If that is the case, then we truly are at an impasse. It may also be that the church will simply let this action run its course without an intervention. One might think that the onus is on the church here given the power imbalance in play. That may or may not be right, but if Ordain Women were the ones to initiate one last, compromising gesture, they would, at the last, demonstrate the basic good will of their movement.

To Both

To act boldly and charitably now would be to enact the prophetic gift with which the church is blessed. In the Book of Mormon an angel asks Nephi, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” Nephi responds, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17).  There are moments where the conceptual tidiness of the plan of salvation runs up against the messiness that results from living in a fallen world. In those moments it can be difficult to know how to proceed. The problem is mitigated if we remember that like Nephi we know one very important thing — that God loves His children. In the face of that one certain thing, an error on the side of love, or mercy, is not an error at all.

Lastly, we recognize that we are speaking here from the comfort of our own lives, no doubt not in possession of all the facts, and much less affected by all of this than are many other parties. Forgive our impertinence, if impertinent we are; we simply, and honestly, wish for harmony in the body of Christ and really fear the fallout that is likely to come from Sunday’s mooted action.


  1. Leonard R says:

    Indeed. Let charity prevail.

  2. Mark B. says:

    Kate Kelly’s bishop holds the keys and has been set apart as a “common judge in Israel” with respect to the members of the ward over which he presides. Your proposed solution (as to the church) suggests that we ignore that delegation of keys and declare that he is incapable of acting in the office to which he has been appointed.

    It also suggests that he is incapable of understanding the effects that any action, whether it be excommunication or exoneration or something in between, would have on the church as a whole, and that he is not entitled to inspiration from God, who knows more than even the brightest bloggers, to make the right decision.

    You may as well release him (and every other bishop and stake president in the church).

  3. I realise that it’s unusual and perhaps fraught with difficulty, but any healthy organisation must be flexible enough to make exceptions to rules when necessary. The scriptural mandate is clear: the apostles have the authority to “regulate *all* the affairs of the same” (D&C 107:33). From time to time this might mean intervening in difficult cases.

    But you are right in the end. I know nothing.

  4. You assume good intentions from OW. If there is nothing the church can do short of not only calling a woman apostle, but the “right” woman apostle at that, then it’s clear OW won’t stop but would continue to act as in interest group within the church organizing and rallying for whatever changes it wants. This is what many people suspect for good reason. If that’s the case, and every indication is that it is, then it’s better to move on now rather than later. Yes, we can be martyrs in the church, tragically misunderstood but doing the magnanimous thing nevertheless. But we should not forget the ultimate martyr also made wise decisions and judged the best course of action up until the point it was his Fathers will that he do so.

  5. DQ, did you read the post? We agree that the ball is also in OW’s court.

  6. Mark B., local leaders, as I am sure you know, regularly counsel with stake presidents or with GAs regarding church discipline. Most senior leaders offer their opinions with an awareness that the local leader will make the ultimate decision. There is nothing in this post that is inconsistent with the model of revelatory dialogue that is so often encouraged in church councils and in other less formal conversations.

  7. If I am remembering correctly, the church’s public affairs representative, Sister Isom, in her radio interview with KUER RadioWest said that local leaders had asked about flexibility to move dates and the church headquarters had already told them that they could be flexible with the date and that options like conducting the council remotely over secure video conference were available.

  8. Thanks J Max, I had not heard the interview but that is one example of the type of dialogue that can be helpful in these situations.

  9. Mark B. says:

    More senior leaders offer their opinions with an awareness that the local leader will make the ultimate decision.

    But the making of that “ultimate decision” is taken from the bishop if the counsel given by the stake president or general authority puts the thumb on the scales.

  10. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    While Kate Kelly’s BIshop does hold those keys, he is not the only one. The accusations against her are not a local issue, but reach much more broadly. As such, it is entirely appropriate for Salt Lake to be involved. In fact, this is why I have no problem, whatsoever, with the assumption that these proceedings were influenced (if not entirely initiated) by those above her Bishop’s, or Stake President’s, pay-grade. Given that assumption, it is not only appropriate that Salt Lake be involved, but it is absolutely NECESSARY. If the Bishop and Stake President felt pressure to do ‘something’, and they are left to themselves to decide the matter, they will feel as though there is only one option. If they convened the proceedings at the behest of those above them, they will not feel as though they can go against those who directed it (even if the influence was merely implied). Someone from Salt Lake needs to be involved, even in attendance, to hear the testimonies and genuinely weigh each option. It is the only way the conclusion of the DC won’t be a predetermined outcome.

    Let me state, to be forthright, that I am not opposed to the proceedings (as though my opinion matters). I can’t imagine anyone was, honestly, surprised. Disappointed? Perhaps. Surprised? Shouldn’t be. That isn’t to say that I believe excommunication to be the right course of action. I don’t know, and am glad it’s not my decision to make. However, I don’t like the impression that Salt Lake is giving, and how they are washing their hands of the matter by pushing everything onto the local leaders. It gives the impression of cowardice. (Note to my SP: I did not just call the Lord’s Annointed cowards. I simply observed an impression of cowardice).

  11. This was good for my heart and mind.

    Thank you.

    It’s never too late for civil dialogue with convicted civility.

  12. Mark B,

    I believe that even the most conservative of Latter-day Saints would concede the fact that there are idiots in the church. The people are imperfect. With that I said, well, if you believe that there are a lot of idiots in the church is it so far off to believe some of them haven’t risen to leadership positions?

    That’s why I feel that we cannot always trust leadership just because of the position they rightfully occupy. That and also this:

    “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39)

  13. “…Church-wide ramifications…” Outside of the BoM Belt (Cali, Utah, and Arizona) this whole controversy isn’t really a thing. The only reason I know about it is because I follow these blogs. Despite many people’s wishes, this just isn’t a gigantic controversy. The GA’s pay special attention to it because Church HQ is located in Happy Valley.

  14. Aaron R., what do you mean that local leaders counsel with GA’s regarding church discipline? Doesn’t Handbook 1 especially say that they should not?
    One solution would be, that local leaders hold the court, and if needed, KK would appeal to First Presidency (actually she should first appeal to SP if it is a ward disciplinary council). Then FP could show some good will in the case.

    Sean, I too disagree with “church-wide ramifications”. Where I live most people have never heard of OW.

  15. What’s completely inconsistent with the model of revelation is inserting yourself into it. You might say the same of me, but I’ve never called for discipline, only judged certain actions as improper. Now that someone with authority in this case is apparently revealed for acting in their stewardship as they feel inspired to do so, I’m not questioning or counseling them, but supporting their actions as I already feel the OW folks are acting improperly (within the church context).

    On the other hand, I see counsel specifically being given (or attempted to) the leaders in the church on an issue that would appear contradictory to what they’ve been inspired to initiate; in effect saying, “I do not agree with the path you’re headed down (even though I have no stewardship in this case), and I’ll give you my unsolicited opinion anyway”.

    You might say that I’m telling you you can’t win. Well I’m just asking that your actions support those called and pray for them to make a right decision rather than offering support that doesn’t just consoles others but consoles them in a way that allows them to justify their wrong behavior.

    And there is the gist of the matter. Is OW behavior wrong and should be stopped? BCC keeps trying to claim neutrality and further insist the church should be neutral to behavior that is undermining the church.

    You can disagree with everything I say and that’s fair enough, but open letters to the church is taking an activist approach against an organization that we ought to trust will act according to Gods will.

  16. Since my dispute resolution web site gets over sixty thousand hits a week, I might comment on this topic.

    However, I’ve yet to see anyone at BCC respond to one of my comments, generally because I’m not one of the cool kids and don’t get listened to.

    Which is my own fault.

  17. This post gives me a little bit of hope. Thank you for being so thoughtful and charitable.

    Sean, many people are hurting in my area, well outside the BoM belt.It has achieved “thing” status.

  18. Local Leader says:

    One thing that the Church could do is to ask Kelly’s former stake president and bishop to send her records to the ward in which she currently resides, thus shifting the proceedings to her current bishop. I’m sure that he would want to get to know her and counsel with her for several weeks if not months before taking further disciplinary action, and this would slow things down enough to give everyone a chance to think through options, and perhaps de-escalate what looks to be a tragic impasse for both sides.

    It makes sense for leaders who are the closest to the accused member to make final judgments, based on inspiration and their personal knowledge of the situation, but in this case it appears that on Sunday Kelly’s former bishop will make a determination on her standing in the Church without ever having spoken to her in person about her feelings, concerns, or perspectives on Ordain Women. She won’t have a chance to explain herself (other than in a written brief that I’m sure will be made public on Monday), and there will be no opportunity to explore the sorts of conciliatory gestures that the OP suggests might be possible. Kelly will essentially be tried in public, based solely on what she has said in public, with little chance to add clarification, or answer specific questions, or perhaps even change some of her thinking or tone. (It seems that a lot of the disconnect comes from whether people see what she is doing as encouraging discussion or making “non-negotiable demands.” That would be a reasonable point of conversation.) In my experience, the Spirit can be felt strongly in disciplinary councils where love and pain and testimony can be honestly shared in a private setting. I don’t see how that can happen without the parties in the same room.

    It would be sad indeed for someone to be excommunicated, or even disfellowshipped, for what a church spokeswoman recently suggested was an inappropriate use of “a grammatical imperative.” Or if the fact that the “Six Discussions” on the Ordain Women website are offensive because they look too much like missionary discussions, maybe the format could be changed. On the other hand, perhaps Public Affairs could change its tone and agree to meet with representatives from Ordain Women to find common ground. A disciplinary council should be a matter of last resort, and, at least as reported, it doesn’t seem at all like the Church, Public Affairs, Kelly’s former bishop and stake president, or Kelly herself have done everything possible to avoid a heartbreaking outcome that will have repercussions far beyond her former ward in Northern Virginia.

  19. If this is a duplicate comment them just delete.

    But I think the number of people who have heard of this controversy is irrelevant to the wisdom expressed in this post.

    It’s not black or white, but it is about right and wrong. It will ALWAYS be right to use civil dialogue and convicted civility. And it will always be right for all parties to demonstrate a little more charity and humility.

  20. Daniel F. Smith says:

    I wonder about the brouhaha about Kaate Kelly and John Dehlin. Most people, including real liberal folks in my Ward or in our Stake haven even heard of them and the so-called “movements” Kelly and Dehlin lead. It is a lot of hand-wringing over nothing, over a couple of people slapped down for being un-Mormon like. Trust me, a couple of years later, Kelly and Dehlin will be forgotten like Sonia Johnson( I hope I got the name correct) is. We are essentially wringing our hands over a couple of arch-narcissists who are on a power-trip over “fighting” the “evil, right-wing, Republican, anti-LGBT, anti-woman” Church. Dont we all have better things to do?

  21. Local Leader,
    A great comment.

  22. There has been the appearance of a leadership vacuum for some time, missing is a charitable and loving voice calling the church back together. It’s rumored TSM is suffering from dementia, if so that would empower Packer assuming he’s capable but given his three serious threats to the Church talk and his role in September six asking for SL involvement seems like asking for an escalation.

    The NY Times reports From California to Virginia, more than a dozen Mormons interviewed in the past week said they had recently been informed by their bishops that they faced excommunication or risked losing their recommends because of comments they had made online. It’s beginning to feel like deja vu all over again.

  23. melodynew says:

    “Besides beginning the work of healing the wounds that have opened up in our community, it models to its membership what civil dialogue looks like.” Amen. Please.

  24. Amen. Charity, humility on all sides is what is needed. The ministry of reconciliation. Based on what I have seen, here is far too much certainty on the part of almost everyone commenting on the whole situation.

  25. Frankly, your order of operations is wrong here. You have:

    1) “It seems much good could be accomplished if Salt Lake were to step in and de-escalate the situation by asking Kelly’s local leaders to postpone the disciplinary council so that all parties (Kelly, the Virginia leadership, and Salt Lake) can meet.”

    Meaning that the Church essentially give in. This isn’t an issue of pride, it is an issue of comity — if agitation results in dialogue at the highest levels, those wanting that dialogue will agitate. Not to say that OW are terrorists, but the same principles apply with a policy of not negotiating with terrorists. If the Church were to meet with OW under those terms, OW’s tactics would become more commonplace, and the contention would only escalate and become more frequent.

    Put another way, if the Church met with Kate Kelly this week, I feel certain that next week there would be a similar agitation for gay marriage within the Church. The Church, I believe, is too wise to do that.

    2) “If the church were to reach out in this way, we hope that OW would respond with magnanimity. The movement feels wounded and let down but any hand that is offered in friendship is a hand worth taking, even at this late stage. If there is any hope of rapprochement, we would ask OW to take it. Perhaps there is some act of submission to church authority that they can countenance, not one that would fatally compromise their deepest beliefs but one which would demonstrate their basic faithfulness to the church. Now is the time for such generosity.”

    I find this paragraph stunning. First, the obligation for the initial step is on the Church (essentially conceding on a key demand), and if the Church concedes, you would hope that OW would respond (but only after the Church concedes). “Perhaps there is some act of submission to church authority they can countenance?” Therein lies the problem — a sermon could be written on this sentence. It is not generous to submit to Priesthood authority, it is the essence of discipleship. We don’t find places to submit where it wouldn’t be too hard — we struggle to submit in all things.

    If Kate Kelly were to go into her disciplinary council and state that she wants to remain a good member of the Church and loves the Lord and His Church more than she loves OW, she would almost certainly not be excommunicated. She would likely be given things that she must do (take down the website, etc), but it is in her pride that she is putting her wisdom against the Lord. No one can be saved against their will — KK must take the first step back. That is the only way this will work. Perhaps she would find this way back inauthentic — but the natural man is authentic and the disciple of Christ is inauthentic when working out their sanctification (with the hopes of becoming authentic through the Atonement in some future day). Lovest thou me more than the New York Times?

  26. I love how when things aren’t going the liberals’ way, there’s a sudden call for deescalation. Where was the call for Kate Kelly to not march on temple square last April when the church clearly asked KK not to do so. She knew they would not be admitted to the conference center. So why make a scene? Because she had to make it all about her. She has crossed the line too many times. And now it’s time to face the consequences. We can choose our actions, but we can’t choose our consequences.

  27. Howard,

    I think that it is likely that the First Presidency is in charge rather than the senior apostle. Think of how President Hinckley ran things when President Benson could not.

  28. I just can’t help but be suspicious of KK. It reminds me too much of the UC Davis pepper spray incident that several of my friends were there to witness. Those protesters did all within their power to make sure that they got pepper sprayed. They surrounded the cops with interlocked arms and refused to let the cops out. The cops warned them that they would pepper spray them if they did not allow the police out of the circle and, lo and behold, they were true to their word. But this is exactly what the occupy protest needed in order to get the publicity that they would not get any other way. KK’s actions have a very familiar ring.

  29. Randy B. says:

    Ronan & Mathew, I don’t mean (at all) to suggest that the church is playing the role of Joffrey from Game of Thrones here, but aren’t you asking, essentially, the equivalent of convincing Ned Stark to confess to treason as his head is about to be lopped off? If not, what exactly do you suggest that OW do?

  30. Jonathan,

    You didn’t read on. We think OW should also think about being the ones to initiate compromise, especially if they want to claim the moral high ground.

    You make a good point about submission if the logic is that every dictum of every leader is exactly representative of submission to God. But that’s not the point, really. You can privately believe that absolute submission to the church is necessary, but I don’t think the church would really demand that in public, or at least wouldn’t punish people for not living up to it perfectly or we’d all be excommunicated. There’s a minimum level of obedience expected; we are just wondering whether the general church can help initiate a conversation that would give Kate Kelly some room to manoeuvre. That would be a generous thing to do both for her and for many like her who struggle.

    Honestly, though, I don’t think you’re our audience. We realise that most members seem happy to show her the door.

  31. I love this. I ache for some kind of reconciliation between the church and OW, and not one that requires the complete humiliation of the other. Thanks for putting this forward.

  32. Randy,
    Maybe I’m saying they should take the black!

    Actually, I’m not. What *would* Varys recommend, however?

  33. Ronan:

    You mistake what I wrote if you think I am happy to show her the door. I am not. I hope that she will choose to stay. I am just making the point that, for all of the talk about Church discipline, it is really, ultimately, her decision whether she stays or goes.

    As to the issue of who initiates, I read your post to state that the Church should initiate, but it would be good if OW initiated. That, I still, disagree with. KK must initiate, it can work no other way.

    That being said, if I am not the audience of this post I will bow out of the comments.

  34. Randy B. says:

    Stow away in a box?

    I think dying honorably, true to your convictions, might be the only palatable option. Easy for me to say . . .

  35. “Aaron R., what do you mean that local leaders counsel with GA’s regarding church discipline? Doesn’t Handbook 1 especially say that they should not?”

    Bishops counsel with SPs. SPs counsel with GAs. MPs counsel with GAs. If Bishops know GAs I bet they get in touch regarding difficult issues. My point is that in practical terms these decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.

    Mark B., sometimes the thumb (the bishop’s or SP’s) is on the scales already and it can be helpful to have someone tell you to take it off.

  36. Indeed, Jonathan, the ultimate decision is Kate’s. The framing of the Hobson’s choice, however, is not.

  37. From the Handbook:

    Local presiding officers should not expect General Authorities to tell them how to decide difficult matters. Decisions on Church discipline are within the discretion and authority of local presiding officers as they prayerfully seek guidance from the Lord.

    and then there’s this

    The First Presidency has ultimate authority over all Church discipline. Decisions of the First Presidency take precedence despite any rules or procedures to the contrary.

    Also, @Local Leader, Kate has stated that she met with her Stake President and Bishop in December concerning the efforts that Ordain Women and she personally as a voice of the organization were taking. The outcome of that discussion was, to quote her, “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

    Listen to the interview she had on Feminist Mormon Housewives and see how she characterizes that discussion. It was not until May when her Stake President insisted on meeting with her again and she pushed back expecting that an agenda be set before the discussion could happen. Yes she was in the midst of preparing for a move but nonetheless she did meet with him in person and they did talk concerning their individual perspectives on the Ordain Women question.

    For an attorney, Kate has been a little loose with the facts depending on who she is speaking with and on what day she is speaking. Nowhere does she spell out the entire timeline of events but instead a careful reader and listener has to piece them together based on her several interviews both written and recorded. It would seem she is playing up certain facts in the media to cast herself in a better light.

    That is part of the reason why there seems to be some confusion on what exactly was discussed and who she met with when. For example, she states that she was notified after moving away that she was placed on probation when the letter and her own recorded interview indicate that she was notified when she met with her Stake President in person earlier in May. And because she is the only one talking publicly about the circumstances, those outside of Kate, Bishop Mark Harrison and Stake President Scott Wheatley are definitely looking through the glass darkly on this matter.

    As a local leader myself, I’m not giving Kate’s Bishop and Stake President a pass here. It does sound as though they missed a few steps in the process of counseling and discussing the matter with Kate to try to find some common ground. However, I have to judge that based only on Kate’s own views and statements so I will concede that I could be wrong here as well.

  38. @ Matt and Ronan. Thanks for writing this. Question, if the church gets involved at a higher level, you’ve essentially built a model for how to get attention from the church and avoid excommunication. Others would know that if they are public enough, they can create serious disruption and the higher levels of the church will get involved (as it is no longer a local issue). How do you avoid that? Exceptions often become de facto rules.

    @ Local leader, The PA Rep on RadioWest said they had offered to be flexible on dates and arrange for a video conference for KK. As a result, KK has the opportunity to share. Additionally, are you privy to all the details of KK and her bishop’s relationship? Right now, you’re hearing only from KK. I’m not suggesting she’s misrepresentation the relationship. I am suggesting that you’re hearing one perspective. Here’s an interesting article on the ward

    @ A Turtle, you said the Bishop is not the only one with the keys. Am I missing something? I’m pretty sure he is the only one with the keys to deal with something like this. My evidence is the fact that our Area Authority has repeatedly deferred to the stake or the bishop, depending on the matter, stating that those particular keys do not fall within his purview. Could you share a bit more so I understand how you’re defining who else holds keys in his matter?

    Thanks again for writing this! I don’t agree with your recommendation but I appreciate the perspective and the opportunity to think of various solutions that may move us all forward.

  39. “For an attorney, Kate has been a little loose with the facts depending on who she is speaking with and on what day she is speaking.”

    Much of how you deal with the facts has to do with what you expect to accomplish. I actually published a couple times on that point (in print, so it was a long time ago). Are you trying to make a point or trying to build long term credibility? Can you help yourself?

    I just took a case to trial. The just caught me telling the truth and teased me about it (the other side left some things out of their jury charge they were entitled to). But you know, it is important to my ability to try cases in front of that judge that I tell the truth.

    But my desire to create a narrative constantly conflicts with the need to prune back and put things in order. Most attorneys put the narrative building ahead of the accuracy, so I’m not sure this is a fair criticism of Ms. Kelly. She has done a lot better than many, for what it is worth.

  40. Sean Lindsay says:

    Might the Church leadership reaching out to change the current course of events encourage other people with other desires relative to the Church? Sure, it could.

    But what’s so horrible about hearing from and meeting with people who disagree with you?

  41. Darn, a typo. “the just” should have been “the judge”

  42. BTW, bears reading in context with this post and the comments here. The two go together very well.

  43. Local Leader says:

    @ OD, it’s true that I’m only going by what Kelly has said about the situation, but if she is accurate in her assertion that her bishop never talked to her about Ordain Women before she moved away and he emailed her a summons to a disciplinary council (and this is something that Church HQ could quickly confirm with the bishop by phone), then it would make sense to move the proceedings to a situation where she can have regular, ongoing discussions with her bishop before a diciplinary council is held. The stake president’s involvement is more interesting, since Kelly is a sister rather than a Melchizedek priesthood holder, but even there (again going by Kelly’s testimony), they had only one or two conversations on the matter, and he probably won’t be in the ward disciplinary council unless he comes as a witness. There are enough irregularities and potential areas for miscommunication here that it might make sense to slow things down and move the council (and its antecedent counseling) to a location where she can personally participate. In such a high-profile public case, it’s best to err on the side of compassion and conciliation, as the OP suggests. A rush to judgment, either against Kelly or her local leaders, is not in anyone’s best interest.

    @ Sam, I have often taken part in video conferences and face-to-face meetings in my professional life and they are not the same. I would hate to stake my eternal salvation on a Skype connection, especially when there is a clear alternative ready at hand. Just transfer her records to the ward of her current residence, as is customarily done, and let the process continue as outlined in Handbook 1.

  44. @ Local Leader,

    KK talks about meeting with her SP and Bishop here:

  45. This is all I have to say about the matter. I was raised LDS, married to an ex missionary and now I am nonactive.

  46. Local Leader says:

    I stand corrected. She does talk about one meeting with her bishop and the stake president. But in our stake, bishops usually meet multiple times with members who are in trouble before asking the stake president for permission to hold a disciplinary council. And if the result of such a council is anything other than excommunication, regular follow-up interviews are part of the process. In fact, even excommunicated members are offered the opportunity for regular meetings with the bishop if they would like to make progress back toward membership. It’s hard to see that happening after the member has already moved away. Her former ward and stake leaders will have to transfer her case to her new bishop after the completion of the council; why not do it now? Again, why the rush to reach a definitive conclusion this week?

  47. Sam, Area Authorities don’t have keys.

    Mat and Ronan, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to write this. I see a lot of wisdom in your words and am grateful to know each of you.

  48. Honestly, and I say this as a local leader myself, I think her moving out of the ward probably sped up the process. I just don’t see how her new Bishop and/or Stake President could come into this situation without much personal background and offer her a fair shot. I’m actually somewhat confused that many think this would be a better option. This is the exact reason why move restrictions are available in the first place. We also need to take into account her imminent move to Kenya, though I don’t know when that is supposed to happen.

    Taking all of this into consideration, I’m not sure there is a better alternative. It’s kind of a mess all the way around.

  49. John, hence my point.

  50. This post seems to accept as a foregone conclusion a) that Kelly’s Virginia leaders have acted rashly, and b) that excommunication will be the result of the council. Kelly is free to offer her “act of submission to church authority that they can countenance, not one that would fatally compromise their deepest beliefs but one which would demonstrate their basic faithfulness to the church” at that council, and those who have known her for years and been working with her for months will be in the best position to judge the sincerity of that act. I’m leery of this idea that by making enough noise to attract a national (international?) following, one can exempt oneself from the authority of one’s local leadership and get an automatic pass directly to the council room of the First Presidency.

    And, a moment of honesty, for those who complain about the proceedings going forward in Virginia: 1) Do you really think she’ll get a more sympathetic audience in Provo (PROVO, people!!!) than she would in Virginia? 2) Is videoconferencing such an intolerable option? 3) Kelly was able to get herself from Virginia to Salt Lake for the last two conferences and, in addition, for this year raised another $11,000 to help other women get to Salt Lake as well. She has several outstanding offers on the bloggernacle for assistance with air fare back to Virginia for her hearing. Why is she so determined NOT to go back to Virginia? 4) Does Kelly actually intend to submit to a priesthood authority in Provo, or is she just stalling until she can get herself into Kenya and forum-shop for a hearing in a branch presided over by a hapless nineteen-year-old missionary whom she thinks she can out-maneuver with her legal training?

  51. I like what Local Leader says. I don’t understand why there is such a rush to try her. What would it hurt to transfer her records? Or simply have her on probation for a while? If her parents were punished by taking away their temple recommends and removing them from callings, why can’t this be a starting point with Kate Kelly? Why do they need to go straight to the death penalty?

  52. Sam, the Quorum of Twelve do have keys.

  53. It appears that most commentators on this post are men who deal with, plan to deal with, or have dealt with offenders as themselves judges in Israel. I am a woman with no chance of being in that position. I feel like collateral damage. What has been injured by the punitive talk here and elsewhere in the bloggernacle, is my belief that my brethren in the hierarchy love me and that the institutional church is good. It is very apparent that those in the hierarchy value protecting the church more than they worry about the loss of us lowly ones. The realization makes it easier to walk away. I am only one lowly one, and I’m staying for now – tentatively, lightly attached. But I’d really rather just put my hand in Jesus’ and leave the hierarchy behind.

  54. “If her parents were punished by taking away their temple recommends and removing them from callings, why can’t this be a starting point with Kate Kelly?”

    It already has. Her SP has already placed her on informal probation which does what you asked.

    “Do you really think she’ll get a more sympathetic audience in Provo (PROVO, people!!!) than she would in Virginia?”

    If she’s living with her parents, wouldn’t she then have the same Bishop as the one who confiscated their recommends?

  55. “If her parents were punished by taking away their temple recommends and removing them from callings, why can’t this be a starting point with Kate Kelly?”

    “It already has. Her SP has already placed her on informal probation which does what you asked.”

    I think they should leave it at that for a while, basically let her think about it before they escalate it. If they had done that, I would have thought, “OK, they want her to change an they want her to stay within the LDS community.” By going to try her, I think “They are just out for blood.”

  56. “It appears that most commentators on this post are men who deal with, plan to deal with, or have dealt with offenders as themselves judges in Israel. I am a woman with no chance of being in that position. I feel like collateral damage. What has been injured by the punitive talk here and elsewhere in the bloggernacle, is my belief that my brethren in the hierarchy love me and that the institutional church is good. It is very apparent that those in the hierarchy value protecting the church more than they worry about the loss of us lowly ones. The realization makes it easier to walk away. I am only one lowly one, and I’m staying for now – tentatively, lightly attached. But I’d really rather just put my hand in Jesus’ and leave the hierarchy behind.”

    Good luck in making your decision, whatever that is.

  57. This incident has been written up in the New York Times; it’s a thing for outside the ID/UT/AZ belt and bloggernacle readers. I’m actually more concerned about the latest post about other, not as public,individuals being disciplined. It’s frightening.

  58. “I think they should leave it at that for a while, basically let her think about it before they escalate it.”

    I think (though I really have no clue) that they likely would have but her move to Utah followed (soon?) by a move to Kenya is what expedited the process.

  59. “Her SP has already placed her on informal probation which does what you asked.”

    First, the SP placed restrictions on her that, if you read the Handbook in context, go above and beyond the normal informal probation restrictions. Never have I heard of a bishop or SP putting a member who is on informal probation under a gag order, which is what he did. She was instructed not to even read a scripture in class or make a comment if asked to.

    Beside that point, the Handbook states that if the transgression in question relates to Apostasy, informal probation is “not an option,” and that the transgressor must be called to a disciplinary council.

    According to Handbook 2, in a section entitled “Where Uniformity is Required,” the book states that “leaders should not deviate from these instructions.”

    In examining how her leaders have handled her discipline, it’s pretty apparent they deviated quite a bit.

  60. Angela C says:

    Haven’t read the comments yet, so forgive me if this is repetitive. I was reminded of a story a friend of mine from the UK shared about 3 of the apostles in a leadership meeting in London. A local leader had casually (not during the meeting) asked one of the more junior apostles a policy question. The apostle was about to give an answer when Boyd K. Packer put his hand on his shoulder and stopped him. He cautioned him that whatever he said to this leader had the potential to become solidified in that leader’s mind as a hard and fast rule, when in reality, the apostle knew he was just weighing in with his opinion. He (Pres. Packer) said that was a hard lesson for these new apostles to learn and to stick with. I suspect he knew that from personal experience (e.g. “The Unwritten Order of Things”). ;)

    I doubt the local leaders truly see themselves as independent agents in this way, but if that’s the truth of the matter, would they be so willing to act entirely alone, knowing that the full weight of their decision rests solely on their own shoulders? That the Q15 would likewise not intervene if they were to exonerate Kate?

    There are two other issues with this local leaders acting independently model with no way to appeal to the hierarchy: 1) while an MP holding man is only playing Stake President roulette, odds are much greater that a woman will encounter a rogue bishop with a vendetta (10x as high to be exact); however, since our church is so patriarchal, it’s less likely that a woman will be seen as an individual agent the way a man is. Women are more likely to be protected and sheltered like children, not held accountable like adults. 2) they get to define apostasy however they choose. That magnifies any of their own cultural, political, or personal biases and in the case of some of the excommunication transcripts I’ve read it is crystal clear that the local leader simply lacked the intellect to even follow the conversation with the person being disciplined.

  61. John Mansfield says:

    Useful reading on reconcilation: Arwell L. Pierce and the Third Convention. (Also here, perhaps in a better format for some.)

    Short summary: In 1936, with all foreign clergy having been cast out of Mexico, a large group of Mexican saints petitioned to have a native Mexican mission president. Almost a third left the church organized under the Mexican mission and carried out their own parallel program. In 1942, Arwell Pierce was called as mission president with a charge to bring about reconciliation. That was accomplished in 1946.

  62. Angela, please read my earlier comment. Appeal is always an option and it doesn’t stop with the Stake Presidency for a woman or man. The First Presidency always has the final say.

  63. We don’t know the actual charge that led to the informal probation. There’s apostasy but there is also conduct unbecoming a member which can be interpreted as a sort of a precursor to apostasy.

    Regarding the additional restrictions, I agree that those are rare but I think the SP was probably seeking to establish a probation that was suitable for the charge. In my opinion, I think he was well within bounds on this.

    For example, if a young couple is to be married and slips up, a Bishop might add the stipulation to their probation the need to refrain from spending time alone late at night, etc. (example of the top of my head, no need to over-analyze). This would be an appropriate addition to the normal consequences of information probation.

  64. Tim, the SP practically quoted the Apostasy section from the Handbook. Let’s not be foolish, here.

    Kate’s SP charged her with Apostasy, and acted out of line with the Handbook when he placed her on informal probation.

  65. This is a fairly amazing conversation.

    It begins with the post, which clearly has the intention to be a call for peace but which fails to take the situation seriously. We have here a conflict over excommunication — a process that was unilaterally initiated by and solely controlled by the church. This conflict is between the church and an organization that the church has refused to speak with and which has the sole objective of getting the church to sincerely ask God for revelation. The post puts an equal burden of compromise on the two.

    What compromise might OW offer? It could I suppose ask to meet with church leaders to discuss women’s issues. Except that it has been doing that relentlessly! Or it could reframe its message within orthodox Mormon understandings of priesthood, revelation, and scripture. Except, once again, it has always done that. With this back history, it is entirely unclear that there is any step OW could take that the church would see as a compromise. It seems the only resolution based on the scraps of hints the church has deigned to make available would be for OW and Kate Kelly to lie by stating that women’s priesthood restriction in Mormonism is based on scripture and doctrine.

    So the post starts with a call for the victim of ecclesiastical abuse to somehow end that abuse. But several of the comments see even this as too much? I particularly love the fantasy in DQ’s comment that imagines compromise to perhaps be impossible if OW demands that a particular woman be called as an apostle. I suppose, by the same logic, that compromise might be impossible if the LDS church demands that Kate Kelly eat the moon in order to retain her membership.

    OW has been polite, open, deferential, and entirely within the theological boundaries of Mormon orthodoxy as explained in the scriptures and available handbooks. The disciplinary action shows that there is no safety for anyone in this community. Placing blame where it lies is the first step toward healing.

  66. Meg Stout says:

    The way I see this is Kate made a decision, possibly inspired by many good reasons not associated with her activism on behalf of female ordination, to relocate to Utah after meeting with her bishop and stake president on 5 May.
    When she received the letter conveying news of the planned disciplinary council, she had various choices:

    – Quietly comply with the terms of the letter and arrange to travel to Virginia.
    – Respectfully request the date change due to her personal circumstances.
    – Reach out to others for help in getting to Virginia and covering her Utah obligations.
    – Put out feelers to others to determine if the letter she received was part of a possible redux of September Six of a couple decades ago.
    – Contact a particular individual in hopes that the ongoing discussion with his leaders might include a letter felicitously proximate in time to the one she had received.
    – Call her contacts at prominent news organizations and make sure external force was brought to bear on Church headquarters.

    Since Kate’s decision to go to the media and cast this as an inevitable excommunication and grand conspiracy a la September Six, she has had the opportunity for subsequent choices:

    – Accept the offer(s) to pay for her travel to Virginia and cover her Utah obligations.
    – Continue or discontinue publishing the discussions that appear to have been the main point of contention.
    – Take down the website she has created or at least use it as a vehicle for conciliation. Or not.
    – Continue or discontinue her participation in the media coverage of the upcoming disciplinary council.
    – Call for or discourage candle-light vigils and other activism on behalf of her and others.
    – Call for de-escalation or alternately stoke the flames of discontent.

    Few people really care about this, when the news has delights like ISIS and a USA win against Ghana and Miley Cyrus or whoever is gracing the front pages of popular magazines these days. But the academic community cares about things like this. Nearly a decade after the September Six, I was asked by professors if I didn’t fear for my status in the Church for my research into Joseph Smith’s life. So there is definitely an impact of public perception of the Church when things like this flare up.

    After Sunday, Kate will again have a wide range of choices.

    – She can choose to announce that she is going to refrain from commenting, allowing everyone to jump to their own conclusions.
    – She can publish her version of events and her written defense.
    – She can continue to stoke the media attention with interviews and documents and tales of the discipline being enacted across the Church (10,000s of such actions occur each year – surely there are some that align with whatever message she chooses to convey).
    – She could appeal this action (whatever it might be) up the chain. As this doesn’t involve legal costs, there is no material bar for her pushing this up the chain.

    The Church (writ large or small) similarly has choices. But they also have a well established process (recall the 10,000s of such actions that occur each year). So there is a significant precedence. Precendence which Kate, as a lawyer, should not be surprised by.

    It appears there are people claiming they will withdraw (or have withdrawn) their names from the roles of the Church or will resign on Pioneer Day or will perform some other kind of spiritual hari-kari.
    I know this kind of thing happened in the 1990s in the wake of September Six and David Wright, etc. A man I had dearly wished to marry at one point in my life decided with his wife that they no longer believed in God and withdrew their names from the roles of the Church when Professor Wright was disciplined.

    Each of us, in light of this current furor, have our own choices to make. For me and apparently my house, we choose to remain within the LDS faith community where we adjudge that we serve the Lord, Our God.

  67. KerBearRN says:

    I have been fairly vocal on FB about my sympathy for Kate and how I wish for a de-escalation of this process (and equally as vocal about the fact that I am not an OW supporter, tho I consider myself a feminist). And…. Today, out of the blue, I got a FB friend request from my RS Prez.

    It’s starting to feel like the Inquisition.

  68. Meg Stout: Since Kate’s decision to go to the media and cast this as an inevitable excommunication and grand conspiracy a la September Six… I recall reading that one of Kate’s local leaders said he would go to the media about the pending action if she didn’t.

  69. “I recall reading that one of Kate’s local leaders said he would go to the media about the pending action if she didn’t.”

    Not exactly. He said he would have to go public only if she continued to publicly present herself as a member in good standing.

  70. Tim J.
    Do you have the link? I couldn’t find it.

  71. Thank you, Mathew and Ronan, for an attempt at balance and moderation. Whether or not I agree with every aspect of this post, I appreciate any attempt to understand both sides and ask for compassion from everyone. It is so lacking in so many instances.

  72. Which action, Tim, the Stake President was not authorized to take.

  73. I think Athie asks a great question: What compromise might OW offer?

    What should Kate Kelly and/or OW do to defuse the situation? After yesterday have come to the conclusion that both sides need better PA/PR departments.

    But what can OW offer as an olive branch? I can think of a few things, all of which I imagine would be unacceptable to OW. If somebody has good advice to offer to Kate, now is the time to do it.

    That said, I think it would show enormous maturity on the part of the Church to reach out to her outside of a church court setting to see if there is a way to bring this to a happy conclusion. I am sure the local leadership would appreciate it as well.

  74. Angela C says:

    “it is entirely unclear that there is any step OW could take that the church would see as a compromise” Having lived in Asia for three years, self-immolation is the only option I can think of, although the party line is that in being singled out for discipline she has already done so spiritually, even though it hasn’t been demonstrated that she has said or done anything that meets the definition of apostasy. No matter, her bishop has the right to define it any way he chooses. She has the right to be excommunicated in absentia regardless the merit of his arguments. (His arguments with her empty chair, that is.) DKL breaks down the argument of apostasy very well in this post:

    I tend to think there is no action on Kate’s part that would appease her bishop. Her fate was sealed in his mind before he took the action, and that’s sufficient whenever a woman is tried in the church. One bishop’s opinions > any woman’s rights.

    I say this as an outside observer. I’m sure her bishop feels he is doing what’s right. Don’t we all?

  75. James Patterson, Handbook 1 specifically authorizes the stake president to make such an announcement in cases involving the preaching of false doctrine to safeguard the name of the Church.

  76. “I say this as an outside observer. I’m sure her bishop feels he is doing what’s right. Don’t we all?”

    And we as women are ALL outside observers, which is of course the [heavenly decreed]/[unacceptable] main issue. This back-and-forth over procedural details by former/current/potential judges in Israel sort of misses that tiny point.

  77. Steve Evans says:

    Call me a bright-eyed optimist, but I don’t think it would take grand moves for Kate Kelly and her leaders to become reconciled. Small gestures mean a lot. Talking about “appeasing” her bishop etc. miss the mark IMO.

  78. Orso, that’s only in the context of actually excommunicating the person. The SP is not authorized to do that in regards to informal probation.

    In fact, the Handbook clearly states that informal probation is NOT an option for apostasy. Which is exactly what her SP did. He violated the Handbook, plain and simple.

  79. Steve, you bright eyed optimist, you,

    Can you give a hypothetical example of such a gesture?

  80. Steve Evans says:

    John, it wouldn’t take much. Instead of the Guardian op-ed, for example, she could have written about her desire to remain a member and what her LDS tradition means to her, outside of the OW context. Similarly, it wouldn’t take much for her SP, bishop, etc. to pen her a note (or email, or phone call, etc.) to reach out and say that they value her as a member of the faith. Putting aside substantive issues of surrender or whatever, just something to let the other party know that you’re trying.

  81. Wahoo Fleer says:

    I’m knitting this to hang on the wall or putting it on a bumper sticker or something: “an error on the side of love, or mercy, is not an error at all”

  82. Steve, hasn’t she done that stuff over and over? I mean, she was in tears talking about how much this all means to her and how she wants to remain a member — has never even had a faith crisis! — during the Salt Lake Tribune interview. I imagine you’ll say that it was the wrong venue, and she should have done that in her most high-profile space. Or that talking about these themes and also other themes muddles the message. Or something.

    But Kelly’s never received any guidance whatsoever from the church about what would work. And for that matter, we haven’t either. You’re proposing one small thing she hasn’t done, on top of the mountain of faithful and compromise-oriented things she has already done. Why would the church care about that, when they rejected a years’ worth of efforts at finding a way to work together?

  83. On the other hand, you’re obviously right that her bishop could simply and easily cancel the scheduled council and email Kate to start a reconciliation. That at least would be a small, simple, even painless act that could help start healing.

  84. Steve Evans says:

    Athie, yes she has expressed those feelings in the past but they are needed now.

  85. rob brill says:

    What is the false doctrine preached by Ordain Women? Please provide one, in context quote from any Ordain Women source that advocates anything that is false doctrine.

    Thanks in Advance!

  86. Steve, are you being intentionally obtuse, or have you simply not seen the SL Tribune interview from last week Athie is referring to? She poured her heart out in expression of how much she values her membership. She has done exactly what you suggest she do.

  87. Steve is speaking wise words.

  88. And JM’s invocation of the Third Convention here is very thought provoking. One of the most thoroughly interesting events from our history, and one we seldom consider in discussions about the tension between personal integrity and submission to leaders.

  89. I’m tired of hearing people talk about how those whom the church has harmed need to be magnanimous to the church. When have the church leaders ever been magnanimous? Making the church one is more their responsibility than ours. Where much is given, much is required, so I say, “Man up, apostles!”

  90. No James Patterson, it’s not so plain and simple as you make it out to be. You need to read the definition of apostasy more carefully.

    “Apostasy” involves (in relevant part) (1) “REPEATEDLY act[ing] in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.” or (2) “PERSIST[ING] in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine AFTER they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.” (emphasis added)

    It appears that Kelly’s stake president and bishop determined that Kelly’s behavior had not been sufficiently repetitive or persistent at the time they first met with her. That all changed when she violated the terms of her informal probation.

    As for publicizing the matter, show me where the stake president threatened to do so. All we have is Kate Kelly’s word as to what the stake president supposedly told her. In any event, the Handbook states that a priesthood leader “NORMALLY does not inform anyone of a decision to place a member on informal probation.” (emphasis added). Surely you recognized this is not a normal case. Kate Kelly chose to take everything public in an obnoxious way, with sympathetic media like the New York Times and the Daily Beast describing her as a martyr. Church leaders shouldn’t have to wait until Kelly is formally excommunicated to defend the good name of the Church.

  91. I know people who have worked with this stake president, and they are not impressed. I sure as hell wouldn’t rely on him to tell me what Jesus thought.

  92. If KK or like minded people value women voices in authority she ought to go a head and write the general RS Pres for her thoughts and then receive them into her hear and abide by them.

    Yes, the issue is most certainly not that women aren’t represented, but the right kind aren’t. When you don’t heed the counsel you’ve been given forgive me for not valuing your demands for further counsel.

  93. “I tend to think there is no action on Kate’s part that would appease her bishop. ”

    Really? So if she updated the website and said she prayed over the correctness of honoring the Lord’s servants and standing down and felt a confirmation on this and disbanded the organization and said she’s ashamed of her tactics and troubled by the devicivness she caused. If she said she wanted to go and personally visit and write letters to those she led astray and try to correct her wrongs, if she said she’d abide by their counsel and accept whatever measures were offered…

    Then you think she wouldn’t be sanctified in the eyesof the Lord and his servant after ddoing all this? This is the humble and scriptural way to approach returning to the fold after leading others away and being the cause of contention.

  94. Watermelongirl says:

    Mathew and Ronan, this is a great post. I wish for this and pray for it. Nicely written.

  95. Thanks everyone for your contributions, but I think we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns, so I’m going to shut it down.

  96. Richard Redick says:

    Amen. I want to echo the comment about erring on the side of mercy. When I read the biography of Joseph Fielding Smith the story was shared that when he would install new bishops and stake presidents – regarding their role as judges – he would counsel them that they were human, that they would make mistakes, and that they should be sure to make those mistkes on the side of mercy. Matthew and Ronan, I commend you on writing a very carefully considered, well-worded and wise message on what is needed, at this time.

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