As Instructed

On Tuesday, Ally Isom, Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the LDS Church, encouraged listeners to have respectful conversations about their concerns with and faith in the Church.

The Ordain Women movement is one of the hot issues of the day, one I’ve been avoiding in all conversation, both here online and in the real world, for months. I am conflicted, unsettled within myself.

For decades, I have been uncomfortably aware of the hierarchy within the Church that requires another level of submission for women than it does for men. We all must submit our will to the Father, with our Savior acting as our mediator, but as a women, I am taught I must hearken to my husband and defer to his presiding authority, but yet, we are somehow equal partners. I know this is not a point of difficulty for many members, but I struggle to understand God’s will in this instruction and how to best apply it in my life. I take it too seriously to dismiss it.

I have been fortunate in the past to seek help and counseling from my Relief Society President when I desperately needed it and was uncomfortable discussing my problems with any man, even my very nice bishop. It was distressing when I had exhausted her authority and had to speak to him. It is good to have women in positions of ministering within the Church, but most of those positions are linked to priesthood office and thus exclude women’s service and access to each other.

I believe our male leaders serve faithfully and seek to be open to inspiration. But the questions they ask and the decisions they make are determined in part by their experience, which will always be fundamentally different from women’s experience. Based on The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we believe that we are essentially different. If we respect those differences, then shouldn’t we want to have representative of both genders making the decisions that affect us all?

Despite these concerns, I have not thrown my support behind Ordain Women. I would love for our First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to let us know if they have asked the Lord if women are to be ordained now or at some future time. What I have heard instead is a repetition that the doctrine cannot change. That strikes me as refusing to have the conversation. It is unsatisfactory because the question is not “What are our current beliefs about the policy and doctrine?” Rather it is “Will you ask the Lord if this current policy and doctrine reflect the eternal nature of things?”

Although the concerns I have could be resolved through the ordination of women, such a move would come with a host of other difficulties. Were this to be the Lord’s will, those difficulties would be surmountable, but in this area, I am too conservative to press for such radical change.

And as someone raised seeped in Mormon culture, the very public, insistent tone and tactics adopted by Ordain Women strikes me as impatient, presumptuous, and unproductive. I have also been dismayed at the tone of the response from the Church. I understand why OW chose the loud route of publicity: as lay members of the Church, we have little to no direct access to the highest leaders of our church. We are told to take our concerns to our local leaders; they may or may not pass those concerns up the ladder. The process by which decisions are made is opaque to us. But this path they have chosen has alienated OW and their cause from many who support the idea of seeking the further light and knowledge which we have been promised.

So, Ally Isom, this is the respectful conversation I would like to have: Have our leaders sought new revelation on this matter, or are they relying on old understanding? Is now an inopportune time to ask? What other ways are being considered to address the dearth of women in leadership and decision making roles in the Church? Simply telling us that we are valuable and spiritual is nice, but it often feels like a dismissal. Encouraging us to talk about our feelings is fine, but inasmuch as the hurt felt is caused by the structure in place, the solution is to change the structure, not validate our feelings.

I believe there is great truth in this Church, both in its teachings and in the living of the gospel together in our imperfect congregations. I know that my ways are not God’s ways, and that I must submit my will to His. And I know that I have an obligation to love and serve my neighbor, to ease her burdens and bind up the broken heart. Both you, Ms. Isom, and Mr. Otterson have given permission to moderate feminists to have this conversation, but I don’t know that that is enough to solve the problem.

100 comments for “As Instructed

  1. So happy to see your words fit my thoughts like a glove, and also distressing. Glad I’m not alone. There is no testimony without asking. Thanks for sharing this. The very next thing on my FB feed after this is a I’m a Mormon from a woman in my ward and it starts by saying, “I never supported OW” I personally may not have stood and acted with OW but I was there and saw sister after sister ask to be let in and I could feel their heartbreak even though I really wanted no part of it to protect my own heart and troubled mind. Sorry, I am a lost soul with a wondering mind. And in the end I couldn’t help but where all black on Sunday to show my support.

  2. Thanks, Amy. I hope there is some edification in struggling together, in seeking to understand different perspectives and practicing compassion. As much as I admire the stalwart faith of many members I see around me, I also see that their very conviction makes it more difficult for them to sympathize with others who are dissatisfied or confused. And yet, many of these women are able to set aside their certainty enough to show love and support. That is what gives me hope that these can be spiritually productive conversations as we wait on the Lord.

  3. Thank you Rachel. I’ll add my prayers and petitions to yours and continue to hope for answers.

  4. Very good Rachel!

    Can I ask that you consider one change in your question: “then shouldn’t we want to have representative of both genders making the decisions that affect us all?” The answer to your question is “yes, we should want that.” But it isn’t our church, right? We don’t get to do what WE want. So, maybe the questions we need to find the answer to is “Why doesn’t Christ have both genders represented?” Answering that question seems like it would be more productive. Though maybe we have to just accept that He doesn’t, and trust in His reasoning (and love/mercy/grace/etc).

  5. I wonder… which of the following requests would be most difficult for the church to grant?

    1. Make a thousand ton purple elephant appear in the sky and dance.

    2. Give us twenty years of Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

    3. Tell us who killed JFK.

    4. Describe the nature of the communication between God and the apostles on the subject of women and the priesthood.

    I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that 4 would be a lot harder than people appreciate. What do you think?

  6. Have our leaders sought new revelation on this matter, or are they relying on old understanding?

    This question has been raised over and over in the OW drama. “We’re only asking them to ask.”

    How do you know they haven’t asked, and are not asking, and will not ask in the future? Why do so many assume that they are not? Does anything think it would be a good idea for President Monson to announce, “Yes, I asked. Nope, don’t have an answer.” How often would you expect him to issue such a bulletin? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?

    Commenters often refer to Spencer W. Kimball and the report that at one time he felt the answer was “not yet” — he was asking, and getting some response, even if it wasn’t the desired one. We didn’t know that at the time. It isn’t like he issued a press release the morning after getting that answer, or that we knew of his long pleading until June 1978.

    It’s hardly reasonable for anyone to suppose that highest leadership isn’t aware of the present turmoil, or that they don’t care about the pains and confusion of Church members. It’s hardly reasonable to conclude that they haven’t taken these or related questions to the Lord. But I have no idea what would satisfy those who continue to demand/request/plead that leaders ask for further light — why would you think they are not?

  7. “How do you know they haven’t asked, and are not asking, and will not ask in the future?”

    We don’t. But we also don’t know that they HAVE asked or ARE asking, and therein lies the issue. There are two possible reactions to the silence on the subject: 1) assume that they are asking and they’ll let us know when and if anything of import is revealed 2) assume that they’re not asking and continue to request that they do so. While I understand that you’re choosing to take approach 1, the second approach is just as reasonable. Both approaches require faith and hope.

  8. Thank you for this post, Rachel.

    “Both you, Ms. Isom, and Mr. Otterson have given permission to moderate feminists to have this conversation, but I don’t know that that is enough to solve the problem.” –YES, this!

  9. I listened to the interview. It was a PR disaster. The idea that Isom kept pushing that the decisions to discipline Dehlin and Kelly were merely made locally is extremely hard to believe, especially in light of the new statements made by witnesses in Virginia that Elders Whitney Clayton and M. Russell Ballard were in Kelly’s stake just weeks before declaring that public calls for women’s ordination amounted to apostasy. The decisions, even if they were formally made by the local leaders, were not made without the prodding of the high-ranking leaders. In fact the most aggravating thing about the disciplinary action isn’t even the action itself, but the denial of the obvious. Like we’re supposed to believe that two local leaderships just happened to decide at about the same time to send letters to Kelly and Dehlin, the two most high-profile LDS advocates of change, inviting them to a disciplinary court, without any sort of interference from higher up. I mean, that’s how businesses work, right? The CEOs don’t want to meddle too much in how local management conducts business on behalf of the organization, right?

    Even more aggravating Isom’s claim that the excommunication process was an act of “inclusion.” In what world does this lady live in? Bizarro world? No, the disciplinary action against Dehlin and Kelly is nothing more than a purge of meddlesome members called for by none other than Thomas S. Monson himself.

    The LDS PR department = masters of disingenuousness

  10. I respectfully disagree, Ardis.

    I believe that they see issues such as ordaining women or recognizing gay marriage as equivalent to asking God to call Obama as the next apostle.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to think that they simply view these ideas as so absurd / evil that they cannot even be taken to the Lord.

  11. I think it is naive to think LDS leaders *really* want conversation with anyone who is not already in full agreement with them, whether respectful or not. Unleashing the disciplinary system against those who attempt to force a conversation with senior leaders only underscores that point. The best we can do is to have conversations amongst ourselves about how to deal with the Church As It Is. And those conversations do help, so they should continue.

  12. Ardis (#7), just my take, but I conclude that the FP/Q12 have not collectively asked based on comments made by Elder Oaks in the April conference. Oaks said that the church does not have the keys needed to extend ordination to women. I take this to mean that Oaks believes it would be fruitless to ask permission until keys are given. Asking “can we ordain women” would be no different than asking “can we resurrect people” (which, per Oaks, is another authority we do not have keys to perform). For Oaks, the necessary process is not what OW imagines. And it is not the process that was done in 1978. Rather, the process is to wait until a messenger comes and gives additional keys. Until that happens, there is no point in asking.

    FWIW, I choose to believe that each of the FP/Q12 have thought deeply about this issue. I have no evidence for this belief other than my very limited experience with the brethren (mostly through listening to conference) which demonstrates they love the members. However, I also believe that there is not a concensus as to what to do, or even the reason(s) for not ordaining women. I find it interesting that in his open letter, Mr. Otterson justified the ordination restriction based on historical precedent (ie, Christ never did it) rather than citing to Oaks’ address.

  13. Dave K – ““can we ordain women” would be no different than asking “can we resurrect people””

    Pretty sure there has been very impassioned asking for the keys of resurrection. Would have been pretty useful when the Prophet was murdered. I’m sure there have been many other impassioned pleas.

  14. Steve (#10), you don’t need to rely on second-hand accounts of a stake meeting to see that the decision to hold Sister Kelly’s disciplinary council was not just a local initiative. Read Michael Otterson’s May 29, 2014 open letter in which he (i) makes clear he is speaking under the direction of the FP/Q12 and (ii) says that the actions of OW are “suggestive of apostasy.” Put yourself in the shoes of Sister Kelly’s bishop/stake president. How do you NOT hold a council after such a pronouncement? Could you imagine this discussion between the bishop and his counselors?:

    – Counselor 1: Bishop, did you see this open letter regarding a member of our ward?
    – Bishop: Yes, I read it.
    – Counselor 1: The church, speaking through Mr. Otterson, says that Sister Kelly’s actions are suggestive of apostasy.
    – Bishop: Yeah, but I think they’re not.
    – Counselor 2: Bishop, the stake presidency just called and wants to speak with you now.

  15. Your words, as described above, fit “like a glove” for me as well. Your words are respectful, but reflect the confusion that many of us feel about this topic. The official announcements given seem to suggest that the “no” that we hear loudly and clearly from our leaders about ordaining women seems to reflect past understanding, and not current or even recent inquiries. Of course that’s hard to know. The Church is in a tight spot for a number of good reasons, and wants/needs to be careful about the appearance of bowing to public pressure. By bowing to public pressure, I don’t mean changing policy. I mean publicly announcing that “Yes, we have asked and the answer is ‘No.'” But there is no easy or good way to “agitate” (using President Hinkley’s term) for a change. Talking to my Bishop or SP about this may give them a chance to discuss the policy as they understand it. But they have no more power to enact a change than we do, and thus speaking with them can feel futile.

    It is discouraging for me to see these two members threatened with excommunication. I don’t question that they are outside of the mainstream. I just thought that the Church had more confidence about themselves and their members and that Mormonism is becoming a “big tent” or at least a “bigger tent” society. I have heard it said that the parable of the lost sheep was not so much about the “one” but about the “ninety-nine.” The ninety-nine are comforted by the love, care, and concern shown to the lost and wayward one, and thus they all feel safer. For me, the threat of excommunication or disfellowshiment makes me think about how I would have felt in school if a wayward child were taken out of class and slapped by the teacher in the hallway. The child might truly be wayward, but every child in the class would feel threatened by such an action.

  16. Thanks for you comments, everyone.

    Jax, I accept your reframing of the question. Sometimes I have to stumble around for a while before I hit on the right question to ask. And I fully believe that there are questions for which there are no satisfactory answers. That’s why in the end, we have to swallow our human sense of fairness and trust in God.

    Tim, I would love to be a fly on the wall in the COB. Reading the McKay biography was eye-opening. As a youth in the church, I had never considered how very different in temperament our apostles are. For them to come to a consensus is a miracle and evidence of inspiration.

    Ardis, you have a good point. I think the easiest way for those of us requesting that they ask the Lord to know that they have done so is for them to tell us that in clear, unequivocal terms. But to do that is to explicitly acknowledge the request, and because of the public and persistent nature of OW, they have been chary of engaging so directly. And of course, Katie, Orwell, and Dave K bring up more good point on this issue.

    Steve Smith, I really felt for Ms. Isom during the interview. She has a fine line to walk, and I do not envy her the position. The interviewer, Doug Fabrizio, pressed hard, but she was limited in what she could say by the official message she was charged to give. As a result, at times it felt as though she was talking past the questions instead of answering them, a failure in candidness common to most all public relations people and politicians. I think she did as well as she could in a difficult assignment.

    Dave, there is a lot we can do the help the church we live in everyday be better. If we all just assume, as perhaps Ardis has, that the answer to the question of women’s ordination is “not happening,” then we can move on to doing good with what we have. Even while we worry these questions, we should continue to be working to build good faith and serve each other. We must not let handwringing prevent us from putting our shoulder to the wheel.

    Dave, the idea of needing to wait on messenger to deliver these keys is intriguing. Sometimes it feels as though we are far from those heady days of the early restoration.

  17. The letter from Kelly’s stake president is interesting and instructive.

    He tells her it is fine for her to have thoughts and questions. But “you must make it a private matter and work through this issue with your bishop or branch president.”

    So it is quite clear: the proper channel for passing concerns to church leaders is no channel at all. There is no suggestion that the bishop or branch president will or should pass on any of these concerns up the ladder. Rather, their job is to help the member “work through” their issues.

  18. Is the prophet our errand boy to God or is he God’s errand boy to us?

    I think the recurring theme is that we want the Prophet to tell us what he is praying about and what the answers are, but doesn’t that create a troubling precedent? Which requests does he need to pray about, and how often does he need to do the praying? We no longer want a prophet; we want Revelation On Demand – our mortal, imperfect demands.

  19. Hmmm… They (the apostles) don’t think they can ask…it would be presumptuous or evil to ask…

    “Ask and ye shall recieve” Now, where did I hear that?

  20. Thor, Joseph Smith was all about revelation on demand, and the bulk of our canonized revelations are from his tenure as prophet. Perhaps we all have been too complacent about the revelations received in the past to hope for more to come. The future tense of the 9th Article of Faith is given lip service, not actual belief.

  21. It’s distressing to me that the Church feels it must communicate on this issue through its PR department. One would think that such departments are for speaking to and with non-members. Why have none of the church leaders spoken with anyone from OW? In this, the Church is acting like a corporation, not like a gathering of believers.

  22. I wish the brethren would ask if it’s OK for me to have a beer. Also I’d like to know about some tithing relief and maybe a compression of the Sunday meeting block.

  23. Alan, I suspect that church leaders declined to speak to OW because of the tactics they chose to use. And I suspect OW chose those tactics because they could see no other way to get their message to church leaders. And the corporation-like structure helps keep this gathering of believers from becoming too unwieldy. Such a structure is necessary in this large, deliberately hierarchical, and international church.

  24. Ned, I’m with you on the compression of the Sunday meeting block. There is no 3 hour stretch of time that is good for families with small children. If we shortened it to 2 hours, and then had an optional third hour of socializing, perhaps with shared food, I think we would all be the better for it. Let’s break bread together.

  25. Alan #23

    I think it may be because OW chose to issue its messages and press its case through the channels of the media and the mechanisms of public pressure. The church seems to have realized the nature of the exchange, acquiesced to OW’s ground rules, and delegated the matter to its trained PR people.

    OW can’t have it both ways. They can’t say to the church “We will speak to you in the language of press conferences, web sites, petitions, and media pressure. You, however, are required to lay down all media-related weapons of war, issue engraved invitations to our leaders, and walk blithely into the Alinsky-inspired publicity booby traps we are laying.”

    If you select the language of political pressure in getting the church to change, don’t be surprised if the church says “Hey, we have a department for that. Get the brothers and sisters who speak that language on it pronto.”

    Those exhorting the church to follow Christ’s injunction to be “harmless as doves” seem to have forgotten the first half of that directive.

  26. BJohnson, you are ignoring OW’s claim that they wrote privately several times requesting some sort of dialogue and were ignored. Public media and press releases were used because that is the only channel the Church allows groups like OW to use.

  27. Dave,

    See my second paragraph above. Just because OW felt they had no other option then the one they took doesn’t mean that the church had any obligation to accept its ground rules.

  28. Also while we’re asking the prophet to petition the Lord about women holding the priesthood let’s try and change up other things like having men start bearing children. I mean really, if we are looking for equality then why not? I personally am not bothered at all by not holding the priesthood. This is not because I am subdued by my leaders or my husband or anyone else. I just feel for me that life is too short to try and change the framework of families, instead life is so much easier and happier when I work with the structure God gave us and enjoy being a woman who has a calling to fulfill, alongside a man who has a calling to fulfill. Together we make a great team. And in the church infrastructure the same thing happens. Men and women work together and even though we aren’t perfect, the outcome is pretty great and inspired things happen. Again, life is short – I think a lot of people are choosing to fight for something that isn’t really necessary for their or their family’s happiness, they already have what they need for that. So why waste precious time and energy on this?

  29. Ground rules? What are you talking about, BJohnson? As if OW could impose anything on the Church. OW made requests for private meetings, was rebuffed, then initiated a public conversation. The Church has responded to OW publicly via the Otterson letter in May but will not host direct dialogue, which is their choice to make. If anyone is in the position of imposing ground rules, it is the Church. They appear to have done so by starting a disciplinary action.

  30. Melanie, I do think that the more men and women work together, the better it is for each of us individually and the church as a whole. I’m glad that you are content with the life you share with your husband. I feel blessed in that area as well. But your statement about men bearing children is either snarky, and therefore not part of the respectful conversation we’ve been instructed to have, or it’s the dream that Arnold Schwarzenegger films could become reality. :) The reason to give time and energy to this issue is that not everyone has found the fulfillment and happiness you have. I attempted to explain why I care about this in the OP, but your comment proves that I failed to communicate both my faith and my concerns. I am sorry to have failed you.

  31. Rachel, you have just relieved me of the compulsion to write about this. You have said what I hoped to say more eloquently than I possibly could. Thank you so much.


    “then shouldn’t we want to have representative of both genders making the decisions that affect us all?” The answer to your question is “yes, we should want that.”

    It’s not at all clear — based on experience and action and policy — that wanting to have both genders represented and make decisions IS what the *general leaders* want or think we should want. That’s central to the issue.

    But it isn’t our church, right?

    Our church is imperfect and, so, obviously not always right. I had more on this but it became even more unwieldy. If I have time I’ll make a post of it.

    So, maybe the questions we need to find the answer to is “Why doesn’t Christ have both genders represented?” Answering that question seems like it would be more productive.

    Jax, your reframing begs the question. We don’t know that Christ under-represents women. All we know is the church structure does and Christ allows it to be so. We also know that almost no doctrine is revealed unless/until those in authority (not women) see the need to ask about the issues in question. Given that, he may well plan to have women equally represented, but he’s happy to wait (as is the typical pattern) until those in authority approach him.

    That aside, I dare say you have heard such questions asked again and again. (Hint: I’ve personally written posts about the reasoning behind gender disparity and on which you have commented at great length.) And, just as the other questions, only the general leaders can give an authoritative answer to the question you posed. (In other words, if you really want an answer, you’ll have to appeal to the same source…)

    Why don’t we have priestesses (the actual doctrine parallel to priesthood)? Why don’t we have prophetesses? Why is the doctrine of Mother in Heaven so underdeveloped? (Hint: neither of us can authoritatively answer those questions and I haven’ seen a lot of direction from authorities on them, either.)


    Have our leaders sought new revelation on this matter, or are they relying on old understanding?


    How do you know they haven’t asked, and are not asking, and will not ask in the future? Why do so many assume that they are not?

    The question itself reveals that there is no such assumption.

    It’s hardly reasonable to conclude that they haven’t taken these or related questions to the Lord.

    There are myriad statements — including Hinckley’s that women aren’t agitating. that they are content, etc. (it was a non-issue to him), including those that simply state doctrine can’t change (but with no scriptural support for the exclusion), including Oaks statements in conference, etc. — that would make it reasonable to conclude that at least many general leaders have seen this as “settled science” or “above their pay grade” or otherwise an issue that need not be addressed beyond tradition and precedence.


    I really felt for Ms. Isom…she has a fine line to walk…she was limited in what she could say by the official message she was charged to give. As a result, at times it felt as though she was talking past the questions instead of answering them, a failure in candidness common to most all public relations people and politicians.

    This has long seemed a huge problem to me. I think many people intuitively feel that the “message she was charged to give” should simply have been to relay the truth, whatever it may be. When it becomes about anything else — and I understand why organizations do this — and is seen as spin, religions lose credibility, which is perhaps their most needed commodity.

  32. Alison Moore Smith – “I think many people intuitively feel that the “message she was charged to give” should simply have been to relay the truth, whatever it mahy be.”

    What truth did she not relay?

  33. Right now, the highest levels in the church still think this is just tiny group of women who want to be ordained. When enough members want it then they will probably change it.

  34. BJohnson:
    You insist that OW deserves what they got because they chose to “select the language of political pressure.” When it’s pointed out to you that “the language of political pressure” is the only avenue that garners any response from those in authority to do anything, you respond that the church doesn’t have to do what it doesn’t want to do.

    Of course that’s true. But does it actually solve problems?


    Again, life is short – I think a lot of people are choosing to fight for something that isn’t really necessary for their or their family’s happiness, they already have what they need for that. So why waste precious time and energy on this?

    Yet you waste precious time and energy snarking at people who are wasting their time and energy? I think a you are choosing to fight for something that isn’t really necessary for your or your family’s happiness, since you claim to already have what you need for that.

    Frank Pellet:
    See #10 and #17.

    More particularly, note the quote to which I was specifically responding. It’s quoted above my comment.

  35. Alison Moore Smith – So based on a poor conspiracy theory and against her actually saying there was no “connecting of the dots”, she’s lying?

  36. “What truth did she not relay?”

    During the interview, she seems to have trouble with spade identification (let’s call a spade a spade) and she puts forth several propositions that are very hard to believe:

    1. That the higher-up leaders are not involved in the decisions to hold a disciplinary court, only local leaders..
    2. That excommunication is a process of “inclusion.”

    1. We have evidence that the higher-ups are indeed involved in the process. Plus, it is highly unlikely that two local leaderships in two completely different locations just happened to decide out of their own volition to send letters to Dehlin and Kelly at about the same time. Excommunicating high profile figures over apostasy (especially people who are very likely to take the issue to higher ranking leaders) isn’t going to happen without direction from the higher-ups.
    2. The letter sent to Dehlin urges him to resign. That doesn’t sound very inclusive to me.

  37. “Is the prophet our errand boy to God or is he God’s errand boy to us?”

    This is a little more casual than I like to think of it, but the point is valid. There is an important principle of sustaining that somehow seems important here — it seems untoward to demand that one’s “leader” have to go back to his or her “leader” for every question — rather, to me there seems to be a principle of honoring and sustaining that is being forgotten. Maybe like children, when the oldest one is left in charge during the parent’s absence, the younger might refuse to follow the well-intentioned if imperfect counsels of the older and instead insist on calling the parent at work to validate the older’s decision — there is something to be said to the good credit of the younger if he or she learns to sustain the older while the older does the best he or she can. Imagine if every private in the army required that his or her sergeant PROVE that the sergeant’s instruction is personally approved by the captain, and every sergeant to the captain, and so forth.

  38. Steve Smith –
    1. Please, what “evidence” do you have that higher-ups are involved in the process? You have someone speaking at a training. One of the letters isn’t even from someone involved in that training. There are plenty of other, higher profile people they could have “targeted”. Why not them? Was the Joanna Brooks book tour not high enough?
    2. Dehlin has very nearly already resigned. He asked to not be contacted by anyone in the Church, and has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe most of it. The letter hopes he will come back (as does Kate Kelly’s). For him, keeping the name keeps his legitimacy, which he’s used to lead people carefully out of the Church, beyond those who have been helped.

  39. Steve Smith (10 and 38):

    I feel you, brother. My impression of the interview was one of evasiveness, falling back on the same old rhetoric and literally not being able to answer (or not wanting to answer) very simple, direct questions, like “where in the scriptures does it say women can’t hold the priesthood?” Ms. Isom came off much more like an evasive politician who is more about obscuring truth than about being illuminating. I think, really, this whole OW flap is less about Kate Kelly and whether she’s an apostate and much more about the pressure Kate is putting on the church to be transparent when the very fiber of its being seems to resist transparency. An institution (or its representative) that can’t answer simple, direct questions about its policies/doctrines has, IMHO, as much to answer for from its members as it does from God. I wonder if this incident and the issues surrounding it will lead the church further retrenchment/investment in opacity and secrecy or if it will move (slowly) towards openness and transparency. I think one reason why we’re losing so many young people is because they’re the generation that grew up with the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, etc. and they want the same accountability from their leaders as the leaders demand from all of us. And I think they are correct to want this. If all truth ultimately comes from the same source, and if truth is to be embraced, why can’t the church be fully truthful about its processes, its doctrine (or policy; it sometimes seems unable to tell the difference) and its history?

  40. “So based on a poor conspiracy theory and against her actually saying there was no “connecting of the dots”, she’s lying?”

    She lacks candor and is dissembling, which is subtly different from lying. I would have had more respect for the PR department as well as the church leaders if they had just been forthcoming about this and saying that they had prompted local leaderships to initiate disciplinary action against Dehlin and Kelly. The latter two have been putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the church to change and publicly advocate views that run counter to officially accepted doctrine. They’ve been pushing boundaries, and they know they have. It makes sense for the higher-up leaders to motion towards disciplinary action. But the failure to acknowledge the blatantly obvious and to try to relieve themselves of the burden of explanation by trying to make this appear as a strictly local decision just comes off as cowardly. And it is absolutely preposterous to suggest that those who are unconvinced by the PR department believe in a conspiracy theory. Pardon the analogy, but it is like saying that Hitler isn’t behind the Holocaust because we don’t have any smoking gun evidence of extermination orders with his signature. Yes, it would be nice to have a recording of a secret conversation between local leaders and GAs as smoking gun evidence of this, but there is enough circumstantial evidence that the higher-ups are involved that it seems crazy to believe otherwise.

  41. Steve Smith – “Pardon the analogy, but it is like saying that Hitler isn’t behind the Holocaust because we don’t have any smoking gun evidence of extermination orders with his signature. Yes, it would be nice to have a recording of a secret conversation between local leaders and GAs as smoking gun evidence of this, but there is enough circumstantial evidence that the higher-ups are involved that it seems crazy to believe otherwise.”

    No, it’d be like convicting someone of murder based on the evidence that they once mentioned killing the person.

    Truly, you sound like a 9/11 conspiracy enthusiast.

  42. Frank, referring back to comments 38 and 40
    1) There is not enough evidence in the world to satisfy the demands of denialists and folks with emotional stakes in a particular argument. But for the disinterested, the following should suffice: Or we could stare at the sun some more and say it is not the sun.
    2) So you agree that Isom’s statement that excommunication is an act of “inclusion” is absolutely disingenuous. The church leaders are using excommunication as a means of forcing Dehlin out.

  43. I believe that the men of the church hierarchy have the best of intentions and put only the safety of the institutional church itself above the welfare of any particular individual. It seems to me that most if not all of them are very conservative, traditional, careful, and literal-minded leaders.

    What if due to age and ill-health, President Monson is simply unable to ask God for a revelation re: women and the priesthood, and also unable communicate it to the rest of the brethren (many of a similar age and health) even if he were able to ask and receive an answer? Previous presidents have been in such a situation, e.g., the last years of Presidents Benson, Kimball, etc. The membership knew the presidents at that time were impaired – it was certainly no secret – but the love and support continued unabated.

    If this is the situation now, would the currently unimpaired brethren feel free to make statements from the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve? Would we rather that speechwriters, secretaries, whatever anonymous handlers write the hypothetical revelations instead? Maybe the PR Department is as close to the source as can be gotten at this point.

  44. Steve Smith – Yes, I’m quite familiar with the reporting. Dehlin claims that because the same Seventy visited nearly a year ago, they must be connected. Wow, that’s a bright sun you have there. Dehlin had been building up on this for many months, while Kelly, if the charge were based merely on her actions marching on Temple Square, would have had a letter immediately afterward. You’d think we were living in a time without phones, where leaders had to use “nudge nudge wink wink” to get lower downs to act.

    For 2), in both cases, it is inclusion because they are being invited to return. I certainly hope they both will, but it’s seeming less and less likely the more press they can get out of it. They are daring the Church to excommunicate them, saying it would cause others to leave if they do. It’s been said many times before.

  45. Frank, no, the Hitler analogy is more apt. Many holocaust deniers claim that there is no slam dunk evidence implicating Hitler, and therefore insufficient evidence that he was behind the killing of Jews. Yes, they are right that we can’t find any direct extermination order. However, the sheer organization of the holocaust and Hitler’s numerous hate speeches in which talked of exterminating the Jews is evidence enough. It is pretty hard to believe that all of those gas chambers would just be built by subordinates without his knowledge or involvement.

    Also, the 9/11 conspiracy theory comparison doesn’t quite work. Given the fact that there are no whistle-blowers coming forward (people who were directly involved in planning controlled demolition or fudging evidence) and that there is mounds of evidence implicating 19 Arabs, the idea that the US government or Mossad was behind 9/11 is highly implausible. Now contrast this with the idea that higher-ups were involved in church discipline but in denial of it. That is very plausible. In fact given what we know, the idea that it is only the local leaderships writing letters threatening excommunication is far less plausible. What do we know? 1) Kelly and Dehlin received notification that they faced possible excommunication for apostasy on two consecutive days. 2) Elders Clayton and Ballard were giving a training in Kate Kelly’s stake in May and responded to inquiries about OW with the answer that opening challenging the church’s policies on priesthood amounted to apostasy. Could it so be that the higher-ups played no role whatsoever in “directing” or “coordinating” this? Yes. It is more likely that they had been involved in prodding (which is essentially a form of directing and coordination) the local leaderships with stewardship over Kelly and Dehlin (not to mention that of Rock Waterman) in that direction over the past few months? I don’t think it would be hard to get a yes answer from the disinterested. Your belief on the matter forces you to accept a lot of anomalies as sheer coincidence, Frank.

  46. OK, so we’ll mark Frank Pellett down for yes on the question of whether asking someone to resign in a formal letter amounts to a form of inclusion.

    There can be little doubt that the higher-ups have been deliberating the right move to take in relation to Dehlin and Kelly for a long time. They finally decided to strike. It just doesn’t so happen that two local leaderships up and decide to discipline Kelly and Dehlin right at the same time without some coordination and direction, unless your definitions of “directing” and “coordination” are as abstruse as your definition of inclusion.

    Anyhow, I’m pretty sure that at this point, we’ve given you enough rope for you to hang yourself and that any impartial outside reader, if there are any actually reading this thread, would agree that you are a denialist.

  47. Yeah, Hitler analogies, even if perfectly apt, tend to inflame emotions more than engage reason. It’s a difficult rhetorical move to pull off in any calm, reasonable conversation.

    I don’t have much to say about the disciplinary councils. I imagine that they were instigated by local leaders out of a sense of obedience and faithfulness. There may have been some precipitating factor that nudged them along, but I don’t know. As with what most people on the bloggernacle are saying about this, it is all pure speculation.

    I think CRW makes a very good point. Now may just be a very bad time to ask big questions. If we need to be in a holding pattern, let’s do it with good grace. All of those men, the First Presidency and the apostles, have dedicated their lives to serving in this church, and I believe that part of sustaining them means granting them patience and respect as they wear out their bodies in the service of the Lord.

  48. Ardis,

    It is so interesting to me that many LDS feel comfortable assuming that bretheren have asked and received some type of answer on this. Nothing in their rhetoric has really approached this tact. I make the exact opposite assumption that serious prayer and entreties have not been made on this point. My assumption is based on the following observations.

    1) They have scrupulously avoided any indication that they have prayed directly on this subject or felt they have received a negative answer.

    2) The most relevant modern history would suggest that it is not unreasonable to assume that there has been strong resistance to seriously considering priesthood expansion to women. Many of the same elements are in play. To wit:

    a) A strong generational bias toward the affected class which might interfere with our mortal leaders willingness or ability to honestly consider the question. We know that gender bias is in many ways more persistance than race bias. It has proven stickier.
    b) Strong “folk” doctriney beliefs around gender that seem a lot like those now attributed to race.
    c) A very narrow use of scripture for bolstering the status quo. For race it was a focus on the scriptures regarding Ham and Cain or Book of Mormon skin cursing, while at the same time discounting scriptures such as “let all come unto me”, Jacob 3 etc. Here it seems to be “Christ didn’t ordain women apostles” while downplaying or eve completely ignoring the evidence of potential female ecclesiastical leaders in the early NT church, the Nauvoo RS minutes, early practice of the Saints and the endowment. While such evidence isn’t definitive it is mounting and at very least seems enough to put the question honestly on the table.
    d) Sadly a prophet struggling with aging and onset dementia very much like McKay, making such strong revelation seeking initiatives more difficult and less likely.
    e) Strong public stands in the past that make it difficult to walk away from. For race it was signed FP statements (ultimately erroneous) regarding the revelatory provinance of the ban and practice by Joseph. Here is it the ERA, and gender theology related excommunications that may be seen as costly to back away from.

    And those are just some main reasons I think the assumption that little has happened that would normally be required by the lord to seriously engage this issue. It just seems to be a historically, sociologically, organizationally and theologically more likely scenario.

  49. When the September Six were excommunicated in 1993, the church made the same claim that it was the local leaders making the decisions. However, Steve Benson reports that Dallin H. Oaks, in private conversations with him, acknowledged that Boyd K. Packer had a hand in the excommunication of at least one of the six; namely, Paul Toscano:

    And the recent link posted by Dave is even more revelation that Salt Lake City is directly a campaign (subtly or overtly, we don’t know) against unorthodox faithful bloggers and those who openly advocate change: Sure, maybe an increase of stake presidents and bishops are all of a sudden feeling more prompted to crack down on people whom they see as infiltrators and apostates. But why wasn’t this happening before? Why the sudden surge in disciplinary action on grounds of apostasy? Or should I be called a conspiracy theorist for thinking that Bashar al-Assad, in spite of his denial, is really behind the attacks on Syrian civilians?

  50. I wonder if another analogy might be more appropriate. The Church Handbook of Instructions has this to say about firearms in church: “Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. The carrying of lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, within their walls is inappropriate except as required by officers of the law” (CHI Based on conversations I’ve had with various members of my SLC ward, there are lots of (at least Utah) members of the Church who are opposed to this policy and think that it should be changed to allow members to carry concealed. There are, in fact, members of my ward (including those in leadership) who do carry concealed though they are not officers of the law. (Full disclosure: I am not opposed to this policy, and think it is inspired and fully consistent with the gospel as I understand it.)
    If there were a movement within the Church to get the leaders of the Church to change that policy, and a “public action” taken whereby the leaders of the movement announced to the press that their group were going to attend a general conference session and everyone would be packing heat, what do you suppose the response should be, or ought to be, from the leadership of the Church? I’d imagine it would be at least equivalent to what’s been going on with OW, and probably even more so (up to and including arrests for trespassing and/or terroristic threats). So why do we wring our hands when an equivalent movement is censured for their views and actions?

  51. Because, H. Bob: Packing heat can be seen as threatening to the safety of others, and carrying weapons designed to kill can seem opposed to the unity of saints, the atmosphere of sacred devotion, and finally the peaceful message of the gospel. Active, committed, returned-missionary, temple-recommended-holding women asking to attend a men’s leadership/priesthood meeting seems to me to be about one millionth as threatening.

  52. I’m not talking about outcomes; I’m talking about tactics. What is the material difference between one group using the media to affect change and another group using the same tactics?

  53. Writing as an outsider interested in this issue, I’m surprised that more comments have not focused on the role of women in Scripture. Although traditionally it was thought that women played a limited role in the apostolic church, new scholarship suggests something more expansive. Some of this research has focused on Romans, ch. 16. At first glance this just looks like a list of personal greetings. However, those greeted include women whom Paul identifies with their office in the church: “Phoebe, a deacon” (v. 1), “Andronicus [male name] and Junia [possibly Junius or Julia in other manuscripts–Junia and Julia both female names];..prominent among the apostles” (v. 7). Some scholars believe that the role of women in the first century church was fairly expansive, as represented here, even if it was sometimes contested (see I Cor ch. 11). This changed as Christianity adapted to the demands of Roman society. My understanding of Mormonism is that the very earliest practices of the church, before the deaths of the apostles, would be considered most authoritative. On the other hand, and please correct me if I’m mistaken, there are very few named women in the Book of Mormon. I’m sure I don’t fully “get” what the PR person meant by “the Lord’s design for his church” as Mormon’s understand it, but I have been a little puzzled. Does she mean the idea that Jesus’ apostles were men, an understanding like that of the Roman Catholic Church? The apostles were men, but they were also Jews, some fishermen, a tax collector, etc.. Would the idea be that their gender was what determined their affiliation with Jesus as apostles? In an ancient world where a woman’s movements unchaperoned by husband or male relative was very limited, there might be other aspects of this to consider. But I may be missing the point, since the discussion seems to center on the LDS church leaders’ initiative in this area.

  54. Showing up with guns is not the same tactic as showing up without guns. One’s a real threat. The other isn’t.

    In any case, it’s clear that these gun-toting individuals are already violating the church’s instructions. The fact that church leaders are doing this–and apparently not even being asked to stop–is disturbing. Perhaps someone at a stake level needs to be informed of what’s going on in such a ward.

  55. Mike, just being around Jesus and following Him doesn’t make one an apostle, just a disciple. Being set apart and given Apostolic keys/authority makes one an apostle. Jesus only called men. There is no record of any female apostles ever. It wasn’t their gender or jobs that “determined their affiliation with Jesus as apostles”, but Christ singling them out and giving them that position.

    Your view that early Mormon Apostles having more authority is incorrect. Because we believe in continuing revelation, the words of the living prophets and apostles hold more authority for us today. Joseph Smith can’t counsel us today since he isn’t here, so Thomas Monson’s counsel is held in higher regard. As doctrines and practices change, the older counsel becomes obsolete; just as Noah’s counsel to board the Ark was obsolete for Moses’ Israel.

  56. Sigh. I suppose I should have known the word “gun” would distract. Let’s try this another way: If OW are successful in getting the Church to acknowledge their grievances in public, what’s to stop a group of 2nd Amendment enthusiasts from pressuring the Church to change its policy on firearms in church using OW’s tactics? I mean, the firearms thing isn’t even doctrine–it’s clearly just a policy.

  57. Frank Pellett (#337), as I already said, read the statement I was responding to (I quoted it) and then read my respond TO the statement. It’s pretty simple. Context matters.

    My definition of lying comes from Quinn McKay: to (intentionally) give a false impression. In the context of the statement I was responding to, I would label these things as such:

    “being limited in what she could say” and having an “official message she was charged to give” can easily lead to false impressions, particularly in a question and answer format.

    “talking past the questions instead of answering them” is a common spin tactic that usually does give a false impression. (If the straight-forward answer and the obfuscating answer both give the truth, why not just answer straight up?)

    “failure in candidness” — same as above. If you are limited in what you can/should say and are sent to ANSWER QUESTIONS, it’s pretty hard to give an ACCURATE impression.

    P.S. Calling excommunication a process of “inclusion” sounds super warm and cuddly, but seems to forget the very definition. For you, I quote:

    excommunication: officially ******exclude****** (someone) from participation in the sacraments and services of the Christian Church [emphasis mine]

  58. Alison Moore Smith (60) – I suppose then it’s how you choose to look at it. For me, having been one of those who was the subject of discipline at one time, it wasn’t so much exclusion as removing a weight so the work needed to overcome could be more easily accomplished. The ultimate goal is to return to the fold, not cut off and forget forever.

  59. I’m glad it helped you. Maybe they need to change the word to reflect what they say it really means?

    Here’s how the church website defines it:

    The process of excluding a person from the Church and taking away all rights and privileges of membership. Church authorities excommunicate a person from the Church only when he has chosen to live in opposition to the Lord’s commandments and thus has disqualified himself for further membership in the Church.

  60. H Bob,

    It would be great if there were more public pressure on all kinds of issues including guns and butter.

    If the prophet said, ” I payed about it and I was inspired that you are all apostates”, we’d all be a lot better off. The OW people would have their answer and the gun people could get theirs too.

    Instead we have, “we don’t have to answer you and you can believe whatever you want but if you try to spread your questioning you get excommunicated.” That’s called “being a weasel”. Its all about the power not the answer.

    If that’s what the church has become Jeff G. and the other authoritarians can have it.

  61. @ Ardis #7

    Does anything think it would be a good idea for President Monson to announce, “Yes, I asked. Nope, don’t have an answer.”

    yes, heaven forbid a revelator should reveal anything.

    How often would you expect him to issue such a bulletin? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?

    every general conference would be fine. i can think of far less important things that gets reemphasized as often as that.

  62. Thanks to my loud-mouthed cousin, who is a leader of OW, I am privy to this information. I have kept this information reserved for boardmail or FO posts, but it seriously concerns me that the public actually believes the OW group is a legitimate doctrinally-concerned faction of faithful women and men. It may contain members that now fit that description, but that is not at all how it began. In fact, my cousin was an original leader in the movement and is completely bent on destroying the Church in its current state, although she has since moved behind the scenes of OW because she doesn’t fit the profile of a faithful member, which would be a negative signal to the larger audience they hope to draw in.

    I also know the foundations of how OW got started – behind the scenes – and “ordaining women” was simply the boldest of their potential endeavors, so they went with it after considering a long list of other politically-motivated designs. Included in those original discussions were Kate Kelly and Hannah Wheelwright. Since then, they have slowly accumulated rhetoric that attempts to reach a broader audience, but their main goal is founded on political leanings and was never rooted in a sincere desire to better understand the doctrine of the Priesthood. The original pants-wearing movement was decided after considering a long list of potential activist demonstrations, including withholding tithing, refusing to attend Church one Sunday every year in protest, sitting on the stand if one was a RS President, bearing testimony of Heavenly Mother, praying to Heavenly Mother in Sunday meetings, donating their tithing to a feminist charity that promotes gender sameness and letting Church leaders know why, and others. Later, they chose the “Ordain Women” movement after the pants thing gained some traction. All ideas are based on the premise that the leaders of the Church will succumb to social pressures, and their current pronouncements that all they want is for the leaders to “ask” is a bald-faced lie. They seriously believed and considered that withholding tithing would force the Brethren to act.

    I also know for a fact that they have sent other private letters to Church leaders that they haven’t disclosed to the public, and LDS HQ also will not release these letters out of (I’m guessing) a respect for privacy. These letters are much more demanding and less kind, even threatening departure from the Church if things “continue as they are.” This explains why the Church itself has classified their “petitions” as “demands.”

    So no, they didn’t originally simply look at Church history and begin this movement because they truly felt that Joseph Smith wanted to ordain women. All of that was layered on later in order to fit their argument, and all along it’s simply been a game of trying to force Church leaders to change something to fit their political ideals, not because God tells them to, but because they did.

  63. Reuters 7/29/2013:
    “Addressing the issue of women priests, [Pope Fracis] said, “The Church has spoken and says ‘no’ … that door is closed.” It was the first time he had spoken in public on the subject.”

    that’s 4 months from becoming pope to speaking the lord’s will on ordaining women.


    does anyone think it was a good idea for him to announce that, Ardis?
    is he nothing more that an “errand boy”, thor?
    is he holding out on us about JFK, Tim?

  64. btw, here’s some news for those of you so taken aback by the notion that any modern mormon would be so presumptuous as to Martin Harris the brethren:

    the reason it’s important for all these people to hear the church’s inspired answer on this question, sooner rather than later, is that they’re not sure how much longer they can support and believe in a church that not only holds no prospect of equal treatment for them but doesn’t even think the matter is important enough to warrant comment.

    so hey, by all means, keep defending the mystical silence coming from Salt Lake and watch as some of the best and brightest women of this generation of saints disappear from your congregations. i’m sure they’ll be plenty of Frozen-Gay-Conspiracy ladies to take up the slack.

  65. We partially know why we don’t have priestess, mother in heaven doctrine, etc.

    We have not made ourselves ready or reached a sufficient point in our spiritual development to do so. Line upon line. If we will someday know these things, as promised, if we will someday see priestesses as covenanted, then what we need to do hear and now is put our whole heart into what is already given.

    This is exactly how God works. We are given much to learn and live up to. He doesn’t keep adding more until we can be ready to receive it.

    This way of looking at it would also include the possibility that one of the pre-requisite “lines” we most first obtain before it can be added to is faithfully enduring until the end.

  66. “so hey, by all means, keep defending the mystical silence coming from Salt Lake and watch as some of the best and brightest women of this generation of saints disappear from your congregations.”

    I define “best” by faithfulness first. And it wouldn’t be “bright” to leave the Lord’s church at all. So while the world will probably welcome them and hail them as the best and brightest, those with faith and true light will stay and serve. It would be sad to see women leave who could otherwise contribute much, but anyone who is willing to turn from their covenants and the light of Christ towards anything else cannot be called our best.

  67. Connie:

    In my opinion, using real names (both for yourself and those you accuse) is more credible than sweeping claims. Your account is plausible, but so is the notion that you are making things up to discredit the group.

    …ordaining women” was simply the boldest of their potential endeavors, so they went with it after considering a long list of other politically-motivated designs.

    You make lots of insinuations here, but never do name any of the “other politically motivated designs” that are “bent on destroying the Church in its current state.” You give a laundry list of TACTICS toward getting some recognition from the general leaders, but nothing that clarifies your position.

    As for the various tactics, I would guess everyone understands that OW didn’t just spontaneously, universally decide to wear pants or ask for admittance to the priesthood session. Common sense would dictate that they brainstormed and considered various options. If you have anything to clarify your view, please do.

  68. Connie, I agree with Alison. It would be nice to have some more clarification of how OW exactly wanted to go about “destroying the Church in its current state.” Maybe you could ask your unnamed loud-mouthed cousin.

    I find it quite plausible that some involved in OW harbored ill intent toward the church and were trying to just cause a ruckus. But where is the evidence that OW was an anti-Mormon organization? Kate Kelly and other members of OW were quite clear that they sought to be as faithful as they could to the LDS church and the gospel as they understood it. I really wish that more LDS people, when encountered with a proposition or idea that they don’t like, would confront the idea head on, based on its merits, instead of trying to attack the person for their supposed faithlessness. That seemed to be Greg Smith’s approach to John Dehlin in his hit piece against him. Instead of actually laying out Dehlin’s main points and formulating counterarguments specifically to the points, he simply trotted out quotes from Dehlin openly expressing doubts about a number of issues in an attempt to paint him as an infiltrator. Now don’t get me wrong. There are the John C. Bennetts out there whose intent is simply to try to bring down the LDS church from within. But I really think that we need to think twice before declaring OW and Dehlin as Bennetts. I think that they are sincere in many of the issues that they raise.

  69. Whether Connie is right or not, John and Kate (and the others) are on the way to de-stigmatizing excommunication. The more that are excommunicated that are not seen universally to be deserving, the more excommunication will be seen as “normalized” to a certain segment of the church population. A new form of Jackmormonhood.

    What we don’t know is how deep Ordain Women’s bench is of active mormons willing to step into Kate’s place and say they are active, faithful mormon’s with the same positions and then be excommunicated.

    Are then 10’s or 100’s or thousands or tens of thousands? It makes an enormous difference which it is.

  70. A lot of people here are acting like the First Presidency is like some sort of unjust judge. Do you think that if a woman constantly petitions an unjust judge multiple times that he should change his mind?

  71. Connie, there is a world of difference between actions and motives. While strategy meetings may have occurred as you described, I give them the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere in seeking good for women and the Church. After decades of little to no progress on this front, it is understandable that they would try a radically different strategy, encouraged in part by President Hinkley’s statement about agitation.

    Martin James brings up a good point about OW’s leadership. Kate Kelly has lost her faithful standing. For the movement to retain that claim to faithful legitimacy, new leaders must step up, knowing they will be excommunicated. If only a handful do so, then all of the OW critics who say that OW represents the smallest of all faithful groups within the Church will be proven correct, and OW will either become universally recognized dissident group that no faithful member will touch with a 10′ pole, or it will simply fade (likely kicking and screaming) into obscurity. While Church disciplinary action against OW will motivate some people to step up and join the ranks of martyrs, most people will shy away from publicly associating with the group in order to retain their standing in the Church.

  72. It is because of this: “most people will shy away from publicly associating with the group in order to retain their standing in the Church.”

    That I don’t think “all of the OW critics who say that OW represents the smallest of all faithful groups within the Church will be proven correct,” isn’t necessarily so.

  73. I don’t want to distract from the content of the recent comments, but I got stopped in my reading at Rachel’s #32*, in my mind a model of graciousness, I’d like to be able to engage in such a way when faced with the sort of comment that preceded it. This is the sort of response that keeps discussions from going off the rails. Thanks for the example of respectful discourse.

    *Melanie, I do think that the more men and women work together, the better it is for each of us individually and the church as a whole. I’m glad that you are content with the life you share with your husband. I feel blessed in that area as well. But your statement about men bearing children is either snarky, and therefore not part of the respectful conversation we’ve been instructed to have, or it’s the dream that Arnold Schwarzenegger films could become reality. :) The reason to give time and energy to this issue is that not everyone has found the fulfillment and happiness you have. I attempted to explain why I care about this in the OP, but your comment proves that I failed to communicate both my faith and my concerns. I am sorry to have failed you.

  74. The ‘six discussions’ are where the disingenuous motives were really revealed. Just too obvious of a troll, they did the same colors as the old discussions and everything…

  75. It seems Kate Kelly is not too repentant yet. The OW website is still live. Her name is still top of the list on the contact page. Looks like she is up for a fight. She has had time to post the email from her Stake President but not time to remove her name.

  76. Murray, it is very difficult to repent if you don’t feel you have done something wrong or if you don’t feel there is hope of reconciliation. So long as we feel justified in our actions, we are resistant to outside authority. A sense of self-righteousness can carry us past the point where reason would have had us reconsider. At this point, it seems that Kelly feels justified in defiance, and with that mindset, she is compelled to continue on her set course. Both the encouragement from her supporters and the disparagement from her detractors reinforce her sense of commitment to her chosen cause. Without a drastic change of heart (often the result of a drastic change of circumstances, which I suppose is what excommunication could be, a kind of tough love approach to create an impetus toward repentance), it is hard to imagine any apology feeling sincere right now. As she (and John Dehlin) are committed to this liberal idea of living “authentic” lives, I think it very unlikely that overtures of deescalation or reconciliation will come from her quarter.

  77. This article says the pope has excommunicated the Mafia. Clearly there is coordination between SLC and the Vatican for this to be happening at the same time as the Kelly and Dehlin discipline.

    (a bit tongue in cheek here, please don’t lambast me! Though, only a bit.)

  78. Jax, I’m not sure even a polite request should spare you lambast from an admittedly half-jest, tongue-in-cheek linking of the Mafia to members of the church still in good standing who are up for discipline. Very poor form, I’d say.

  79. Jax, educate yourself on the Mafia, notice that I included the word ‘still,’ and please let it drop.

  80. Pigs are flying, hell is freezing, and Ardis is laughing at a comment by Jax. Any old fool (at least this one) can see that he isn’t linking the Mafia and “prominent Mormons,” but is taking a jab at conspiracy theorists. Well done, Jax.

  81. After having a good chuckle at Jax’s nice comment, I felt like sharing this important point: Compare the Pope’s nonchalant public dismissal of an vague group with the individual and local nature of LDS disciplinary councils. Perhaps we should be more grateful than skeptical about that procedure, especially when relying on biased, 2nd party sources of information.

  82. Can you imagine Pres. Monson at conference announcing that everyone in OW is being Ex-ed? How horrible would that be?? At least our current process keeps it confidential (unless you make it public yourself) and you deal with people you know because they are local – you have seen them before and likely have some relationship with them. Maybe it isn’t a great relationship, but at least it isn’t someone you’ve never seen nor talked to, that doesn’t know you personally.

  83. So Kelly and Dehlin receiving disciplinary notifications on two consecutive days is just mere coincidence? And people are “conspiracy theorists” for not believing so? Not to mention Rock Waterman’s disciplinary notification just a couple of weeks before. We should make no mistake that there is an effort on the part of Salt Lake City to do some boundary maintenance. They have basically given local leaderships the go-ahead with excommunicating high profile bloggers and advocates for change on grounds of apostasy. While SLC may technically leave the decision to notify and discipline in the hands of the local leaderships, the string of recent disciplinary actions is clearly indicative that the higher-ups have been talking about action to take. And technically that is an act of coordination. What they’re doing is a classic administrative maneuver to avoid taking blame. For they don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of these excommunications. They don’t know if there will be fallout as a result of these or if the core membership will not bat an eye. If the former, they want to be able to say that it is an issue that people should take up with the local leaderships, for they’re the ones ultimately making the decisions.

    Now for the naive denialists who continue to insist that the spate of disciplinary action is all coincidental, I insist back that you read the following piece by Steve Benson, who cites a private conversation with Dallin H. Oaks in which Oaks acknowledges Boyd K. Packer’s direct hand in exing Toscano back in the 1990s: Be sure to read Oaks’ retort to Benson in which he neither confirms nor denies what Benson said, but simply gets angry at him for revealing private information.

  84. Kelly keeps telling this story about how she is only asking questions. Why does everyone keep repeating this lie. She asked question, sure. But she didn’t ONLY ask questions did she?

    She was warned about behavior that would lead to discipline yet failed to heed that counsel. She knew what activities could lead to discipline, and made the conscious decision to keep doing it/them. Her other activities were more important to her than her membership standing, and so she placed them at a higher priority. Well, it seems she will get to keep her higher priority and lose the lesser one. She gets what she chose.

    As for the church, every organization sets a standard of acceptable behavior for membership. Just as it is fine for Kelly to set her priorities, it is fine for the church to enforce the standards of conduct that it sets. It isn’t like they are hidden standards, or even unachievable ones. If she had no idea that making public demonstrations/statements/encouragements that directly contradict the doctrines of the church, then maybe she (and others) could justly be upset she is being punished. But she was warned when she crossed the threshold of acceptable behavior and refused to turn back. Rachel was right above when she said it is hard to repent when you don’t feel you have done anything wrong. It’s more than hard, but impossible. It is the realization that you’ve done something wrong that IS the change of heart the begins repentence. Maybe she doesn’t feel she is wrong, but the church let her know that she is, and has a duty to discipline her if she doesn’t (or can’t) change her heart and actions.

  85. More evidence of a SLC-directed purge:

    Fourteen disciplinary actions on grounds of apostasy since October of last year. This is nothing other than SLC-directed boundary maintenance intended as a warning against ardent advocates of gay marriage and women’s ordination, and those who openly criticize church policy. Sorry, coordination deniers. Your insistence that SLC has no hand in this and that this all just happens to be an uncoordinated and undirected surge in local initiatives to try people for apostasy is becoming increasingly less believable.

  86. HQ could say to local leaders “You need to crack down on apostates and bring them in for disciplinary councils.” That would be in line with all past church policies and practices (just advising them to enforce the standards of conduct) and well within their job descriptions/duties, would explain the 14 actions within the last year, and yet would still be locally initiated events. HQ would/should be giving training to leaders such as “Such-and-such actions constitute apostasy and should be investigated. If you no of people doing X,Y, and Z, then you should hold a church council to determine if it consitutes apostasy.” If that training/instructions leads leaders to decide, “Mrs. Kelly meets the criteria from the training/instruction we got from SLC, we should do something.” then it is exactly as described by Church PR – locally initiated disciplinary actions.

  87. More bad news for coordination deniers. Rock Waterman made the following statement on his most recent blog post: “when I met with [my bishop] in his office he told me he had been tasked with delivering an ultimatum from an Area Seventy.”

    Area Seventies aren’t local leadership.

  88. Jax, sure, locally initiated disciplinary actions — as directed by senior leaders. When locals phone up for additional information and guidance (to their SP and possibly up the line from there), we could say “as directed and coordinated by senior leaders.” The whole point of saying “locally initiated disciplinary actions” is to remove the senior leaders from any involvement, while your scenario posits the active involvement of senior leaders, who got the ball rolling by directing the local leaders to crack down. I’m just not sure what you think you are accomplishing other than to suggest it is okay to use misleading statements (which is not a crime, but it erodes one’s credibility).

  89. Dave,

    I don’t know that we can say “as directed and coordinated by senior leaders”. Unless someone from HQ called Kelly’s VA Bishop and said, “You WILL hold a church council for Mrs. Kelly” then it was his decision to do it on his timing. I don’t know that they church ever denies “any involvement” in church discipline, since they answer phone calls from local leaders how have questions, they give directives/procedures to follow for such councils, etc. Locally initiated doesn’t equal total non-involvement by SLC. Church discipline starts locally, is handled locally, and is decided locally. I’m sure if they have issues/questions they call SLC, and if SLC is concerned about the handling of things that they will call and give general directives or review appropriate procedures with them.

    And do we have proof of coordination?? Or just the assumption because they happened so close together? I suspect that if it was Kate Kelly this month, and Dehlin next month that those professing collusion would suggest that because they were soooo close together it was proof of directives for SLC. “In June it was Kelly, and this month it is Dehlin! This is obviously coordinated!!”

  90. I was keeping up until the Steve Benson reference. That’s when the comment thread devolved into craziness.

  91. I decided to look again at the statement issued by church leaders and posted by the PR department. What I found is that they aren’t directly saying that church HQ isn’t directing and coordinating efforts to hold a disciplinary council for the purpose excommunication. Here it is:

    “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.”

    Decisions to do what? Decisions to clarify false teachings and prevent others from being misled? OK, sure. So local leaderships aren’t directed to clarify false teachings and can do that if they so desire. Notice how excommunication and disciplinary action aren’t directly mentioned, but only implied. Now Jessica Moody, a spokesperson from LDS Church Public Affairs, clarified to KUTV News, “While senior leaders do provide training, these decisions are made by local leaders and are not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.” Again, a bit more specific, but still nebulous. I am assuming that “these decisions” means hold a disciplinary council for the purpose of excommunication, but it still isn’t entirely clear. Also, this statement is made by Moody, not the LDS leaders directly.

    I get the sense that the church’s intent is to be deliberately vague on the issue. This is another classic administrative maneuver: give concise and somewhat trite statements that give the appearance of addressing a specific issue, with the hope of making it go away, but that really doesn’t actually address the issue head on. Then, if critics treat the statement as if it is addressing the issue of excommunication head on, this puts the administration in a position to say, “ah, you misinterpreted the statement, you need to read more carefully. However, you clearly have an agenda, so you’re not worth talking to.”

    So I guess then I agree with others that HQ isn’t directing or coordinating the clarifying of false teachings and the preventing of members from being misled. They can choose to do that if they so desire. Now, on excommunicating high profile members, the church has actually not said anything regarding the issue. So we’re free to speculate as we please, and the speculation that holds that HQ is directing and coordinating (essentially meaning in correspondence with local leaderships about certain issues and prodding them towards specific actions) disciplinary action has more evidence and makes more sense than the alternative explanation. And as for Isom: she is still a disingenuous, webweaving, spinner of words and issues.

  92. I finally get why the tares and the wheat were so hard to tell apart and why 1/2 of the virgins will not be admitted to the wedding feast. Sad!

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