Church disciplinary action is usually a quiet process to ensure the privacy of the member involved. In the years my husband has been involved as an ecclesiastical leader in these councils, he has been scrupulous to never mention to me the person whose membership is in question nor the sin. It was only on a rare occasion that I knew he was attending a disciplinary council, and that because he was late returning home.
Yet last week Kate Kelly and John Dehlin each received letters from their priesthood leaders about disciplinary councils for them, and immediately they sent them to the press, who, of course, have had a hey-day ever since. What can be more fun for the press than beating up what they see as a male-dominated Church which has the gall to believe that it is directed by God? In articles that are largely very biased and poorly researched, the story goes that the Church is purging itself of intellectuals, that it is calling a kangaroo court, that now conversation in the Church has been chilled.
Kelly who founded the Ordain Women group and Dehlin who has a website called Mormon Stories have been cast by the media as victims and targets of the Church they claim to love. In fact, with their appeal to the media who pose them in these roles, it appears that rather than being called into a disciplinary council, it is the Church they are trying to put on trial.
Some newspapers have taken that a step further and run polls asking readers whether they think Kelly and Dehlin should be excommunicated. The Salt Lake Tribune asked “Would excommunicating these two individuals be the right move for the LDS Church?” with one of the responses being, “No, this will be a PR nightmare for the Church.”
Of course, asking for a public opinion poll about anyone’s possible excommunication is totally inappropriate, because as any Latter-day Saint knows this is a very grave matter not a quick poll to attract readers. The question about whether this is the “right move” also comes from a false paradigm as if considering the welfare of someone’s soul should be calculated by whether others will approve of it or not or whether it will be good for the Church’s “image”.
What is telling, however, is the way Kelly’s and Dehlin’s stories are being told as captured in this piece from The Daily Beast. “Kate Kelly and John Dehlin both openly profess their love for the Church of Latter-Day Saints and their fellow Mormons. They are both deeply invested in their wards (local congregations) and committed to their faith.”
Yet in the letter that Dehlin’s stake president Bryan C. King sent him was this revelation, “Ordinarily, I prefer to speak in person and in private about such matters and I offer you the opportunity to do so. I am aware of your recent email to Bishop Huntin which you requested that you not be considered a member of the ward, and that your names be removed from the home teaching and visiting teaching rolls of the Church.”
This certainly casts a different light upon the situation. Instead of a martyr to an inquisition, he is an agent who has made choices.
One writer, commenting on The Daily Beast article said that the press is eating up this martyr narrative and then notes, “Dehlin has publicly stated that he doesn’t believe in God, questions whether there was a historical Jesus, denies the divinity of LDS scripture, rejects all of the actual doctrines of the LDS church.
“The press makes this into an LBGT issue and pokes fun at the LDS Church. Dehlin is an open active non-believer using his church status to build a movement against the church as it is today. Dehlin uses his status as a “faithful Mormon” as a platform for building his own movement. He wants to redefine what the LDS church is and what it means to be a member. He’s hardly the martyr the press is making him out to be. If you reject all of a religion’s truth claims, is it unfair for them to excommunicate you?”
Peggy Fletcher Stack writes this in The Salt Lake Tribune about Kelly. “Mormon feminist, returned missionary and temple-attending member Kate Kelly cherishes her church so much so that she desires to play an even bigger role in it.” She notes later in the article that Kelly was “totally, totally floored” to receive the letter from her bishop.
Really? Kelly is a very smart woman and human rights attorney. She has blatantly disregarded several warnings from the Church to “cease and desist” She has been told that women couldn’t receive tickets for the General Conference priesthood session and she persisted. She was asked not to bring her march onto Temple Square during conference. She did anyway. She has been asked to take down her website.
Instead, she and her cohorts have amplified their website efforts including creating a series of six “proselytizing” discussion dedicated to teach women how they are oppressed and unequal in the Church. This includes a rousing game of “Patriarchy Bingo.” This is a counterfeit of the old six discussions that used to be used in missionary work, even mimicking the same color scheme.
In a live interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, she said that she just wanted an answer on the ordination of women, but at what point to you acknowledge that you have been given an answer in repeated ways?
How much more clear could Elder Dallin H. Oaks have been in the April 2014 General Conference when he said, “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 proceduresmatters 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.”
The public is not free to make judgments on whether Dehlin or Kelly have committed apostasy, but the Church is free to make that judgment. Dehlin and Kelly are free to say whatever they would like, express their concerns with great fervency, but not to do it from the platform of claiming to be members in good standing as they seek to build a following for their divergent point of view.
<a target="_self" href="http://www.
mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-discipline”>This is what the Church has to say about apostasy. “Church discipline may be used to address apostasy the repeated, clear and open public opposition to the Church, its leaders and its doctrine. If someone seeks to teach as doctrine something that is contrary to the Church’s beliefs, attempts to persuade other Church members to their point of view or publicly insists the Church change its doctrine to align with their personal views, they would be counseled by a local Church leader and asked to cease that practice.If they fail to do so, Church discipline may follow.”
This does not mean that people cannot have questions about doctrine or discuss points of view. It does mean that you cannot raise your hand to sustain our leaders as “prophets, seers, and revelators” and at the same time be in open, public opposition to them and the revealed doctrine and rally others to do the same.
Recently the Church has published this statement:
“The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.
“Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church.”
Jan Shipps, a retired religion professor from Indiana, who is a non-Mormon expert on the Church told the Associated Press, “Singling out two critics of church policy who have made themselves very visible seems like boundary maintenance’ by the church. They are saying to folks: If you go this far, you are risking membership.'”
Meanwhile, many people are offended that Kelly and Dehlin will have disciplinary councils. They have bought the narrative that these two are victims and martyrs. Facts do not seem to bear that out. Instead, they are agents who seem to be eager to whip the Church and shame the leaders, using the media as their cohorts.
If all the world stood up to belittle the Church, it wouldn’t make them right. In the April 2014 General Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson noted that during World War I, there was a popular song that vowed that 50 million people cannot be wrong. “But, in fact,” he affirmed, “50 million people can be wrong.”