Knocking With My Sisters

IMG_1268One of my most recent posts was an attempt to honestly explore (or at least ask) the question: “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens?” The scriptures and the early days of our church are replete with faith-inspiring examples. How do we do it now that we’re millions strong? The answer – as the events of the last two weeks have thrown in dramatic relief – is that we don’t have one.[1]

Many others have noted the fact of Kate Kelly’s disciplinary council arising from (as many think) her aggressive tactics courting media and engaging non-Mormons on this issue. She has done so (many think) because it’s the only way she was able to actually engage Church leadership. Again, if staying quiet or staying local is not a practically effective means of knocking (and it’s not), and if going public is effective but off-limits (as tonight’s council seems to say), then how do we collectively knock and gain further light on these huge issues? We do not have an institutional answer.

I don’t know if tonight’s vigil was an answer, or if it will ultimately become a kind of solution to our current institutional lack, but it was beautiful. And it was beautifully Mormon. We collectively gathered – an incredibly diverse mix of folks, a poster event of “Big Tent” Mormonism – on the lawn outside of the stake center where Kate Kelly’s membership was being reviewed. Like any event of Mormons I’ve ever attended, everyone was very social, embracing one another, even strangers. There was a violist playing in the background and as we sang – The Spirit of God, Be Still My Soul, Lead Kindly Light. We said prayers, heard devotionals, scripture, the words of Joseph Smith, the words and stories of past pioneers and family, poetry. There was a short opportunity for those who wanted to explain why they were gathered. We tied handkerchiefs to a rope which will be sent to a Mormon quilter and turned into a piece of art.

No picket lines. No media (or at least, a member of the local ward allegedly on assignment to interview folks was all I noticed). An incredible outpouring of love and anguish and faith and mourning and hope and determination. A collective, Mormon petition.












I’m grateful to have joined with my sisters and brothers. I hope that not only the heavens but also our leadership and our fellow saints who disagree with us, nonetheless hear the petition. I hope they hear the faithful testimony that this action was. And I hope that this was a constructive move toward a future means of knocking together.

“Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom. Lead thou [us] on. . . . And with the morn, those angel faces smile, which [we] have loved long since and lost awhile.”[2]


Our Catholic sisters who joined us in solidarity. This was one of the most touching aspects of the night for me.

Our Catholic sisters who joined in solidarity.













* * * *

[1] Not that this is news. But it’s a critical and oft overlooked point.

[2] I feel the need to give some rather important disclaimers. First, I was not there representing Times & Seasons. Nor am I writing this as a post representing Times & Seasons. Times & Seasons is an almost absurdly diverse group of bloggers (at least in the context of the bloggernacle). Our opinions on the Ordain Women movement specifically and women’s issues more generally are just as divided as our opinions on politics, BYU sports, the three hour block, and jello. Next: I’m not a member of the Ordain Women movement, nor do I plan to become one. This is an important point for me, and is part of why I was so moved by tonights event and the array or souls who gathered. Among other reasons I was there to mourn with those that mourn – as we all strive to do – and to honor the righteousness of those I see striving as Abraham to obtain the greater happiness and peace and rest and blessing and right and knowledge and instructions and heritage of their fathers.

41 comments for “Knocking With My Sisters

  1. Beautiful, but misguided. Feeling 2nd class is not a just cause I’d rest my membership on or support.

  2. The past 8 years or so of lurking (and occasionally participating) on these blogs has broadened my horizons. However, I guess they’ve still got a ways to go, because I would not find myself on the lawn outside a disciplinary council like this. A respectful “protest,” to be sure, but a protest nonetheless. That takes guts. And in my opinion can only have a negative effect on the council. Edward Kimball said as much when speaking about the priesthood revelation: that if pressure had been brought to bear on his father, he (Edward) didn’t think it would have happened at that time.

    I don’t know what these answer is for those agitating for this change. I wish them luck.

  3. Your question was: “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens?”

    Answer: YOU DON’T. You look to the doctrine. General Conference. You never counsel the prophet. Period. Stay close to the church and the doctrine. Besides, if you look at a dissenting opinion, and can tell right away that it doesn’t match up with the Lord or His servants, why would any of us spend one additional nanosecond contemplating it?

    Again, you do not counsel the prophet. You do not ask him to ask the Lord. If he wants to, he can. But there is no way it is appropriate to tell the prophet what you’d like him to do…especially when it comes to wanting him to ask about a doctrine that has already been clarified by Elder Oaks as one of the Lord’s servants. And, as one of my friends has said, ““What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, IT IS THE SAME.” (D&C 1:38) (emphasis added)

    One of the most basic questions I can ask myself is this: Do I believe this? Do I REALLY believe that the voice of the prophets are the same as Jesus Christ’s? This question is at the core of most of the high profile attention the Church has been receiving lately.”

  4. Umm Julie, you realize that most of the first 50 or so sections of the D&C were given BECAUSE someone petitioned the prophet?

  5. The problem here is that there is an insistence that the prophets have not listened, and worse, that they can manipulate the Lord into agreeing on change. There is a lot that makes it up thru the rank and file to the Brethren, much more than this group seems to understand or want to believe. That a change could happen is always possible, however if the pattern with Pres Kimball shows, such tactics will only delay the event. The Brethren ARE aware of the desires of this group (and others). Yet, their first responsibility is not to Ordain Women, but to the Lord. I applaud them for moving cautiously, so as not to accidentally impose their own will, rather than that of the Lord. This isn’t a Hollywood marriage that can be whatever we wish it to be, but a major change of doctrine.
    Yes, Joseph Smith was importuned on many occasions. However, the Church only had a few thousand members in his day. There were some he refused to entertain with a revelation or response. There were “revelations” he received that he had to walk back or change drastically, perhaps because he rushed them too quickly out the door.
    Let’s quit pretending that the Church leaders hear nothing. Let’s also realize that 15 million members cannot all send a weekly letter to the Prophet and think he can answer them all. The Church has pushed much of the decision making and revelation down to the local levels, so we should look to our Stake President as the prophet of our stake, and the bishop as our ward’s prophet. They cannot make a major doctrinal change such as ordaining women, but they can perform amazing things in callings they never sought after.
    For me, I sat in Sacrament meeting yesterday during my ward conference, and humbly and gladly sustained the Prophets and Apostles, as well as my ward and stake leaders. And I felt at peace knowing they lead me spiritually.

  6. Rameumptom you’ve done nothing in your comment beyond 1. Restating the problem (i.e., we currently have no feasible institutional means to collectively petition our leaders in the contemporary church – though you also state that you’re content with this problem); and 2. taking a breathtakingly condescending tone towards those of us that participated in yesterday’s event. If I didn’t sustain the Prophets and Apostles as prophets and apostles, I certainly wouldn’t feel the need to petition them at all. I’m not in this church because I feel that it is a successful secular institution that does or has the potential to align with my own goals and values. I hope that you’ll be able to come to grips with the fact at least some of us are just as aware of what you point out as you, are just as dedicated in our commitment to sustain our leadership as you, and yet come to significantly different conclusions about how that obligates us or ways in which the structure of the church might be shifted in order to allow us to more effectively carry out that sustaining.

  7. James, some people will no doubt describe this as a gathering of activists protesting against God, the family, and the Church. I like your description better.

  8. “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens?”

    Every two years each temple recommend-holding member meets with her Stake President. Each time any sister supporting ordination for women meets with her Stake President, she should express:

    “I have been humbly seeking guidance through prayer, and feel I cannot progress further in my salvation without being ordained to a Priesthood Office. I know that only the Lord can speak to the President of the Church, and authorize this ordination. Can you help me ask him to petition the heavens?”

    This request is Personal, not General. This is Revelation for oneself, not for the whole Church. Asking counsel from the appropriate authorities, through the appropriate channels.

    If only 104 women will undertake this task, this question will enter the ‘official channels’ once a week.

    It would not be inappropriate to send a follow-up email to the Stake President every six months.

    The same question could be asked of visiting General Authorities when they have question-and-answer sessions.

    Often, a Stake President will ask the interviewee to pray. Speak to the Lord, in the presence of the Stake President, recounting His impressions to you, through the Holy Ghost, that you ought to seek for Priesthood ordination. Let the Stake President feel the Spirit you have felt.

  9. Mourning with those that mourn and comforting each other in our daily walk with the Savior is indeed a lovely practice and completely in harmony with the Gospel of Christ. I have, however, a few questions after reading this post.

    1.) What was being mourned, precisely? As this was a disciplinary council, no actions had been taken at the start of the council and there exists a very real possibility that no official disciplinary action would be taken. I have asked this question before in another place with no response. It is a legitimate inquiry. Why are we assuming that excommunication will necessarily result? No such presupposition should exist within the minds and hearts of the individuals participating in the council.

    2.) Does combining a supportive vigil for Sister Kelly with a form of petition to the brethren on a doctrinal matter confuse the issue? In other words, is support for Sister Kelly the same as petitioning the brethren regarding her doctrinal questions? I would not think so, but I’m curious to know your thoughts.

    3.) Do you think such a vigil actually helped Sister Kelly? Not necessarily on an emotional level, though I can certainly imagine that feeling supported emotionally would be a great help to anyone, which is usually good (though not always). Do you think such a vigil would or even should influence a council of brethren who are attempting to determine the will of the Lord as it relates to Sister Kelly?

    4.) A large portion of disciplinary councils and the actions taken pursuant to such a council are affected by the involved member’s level of repentance, if any wrongdoing is determined to have taken place. By saying in effect “Sister Kelly, you were right and we support you”, does that not make it easier for Sister Kelly to adopt an unrepentant attitude, which can lead to more drastic disciplinary action? In attempting to ease her burdens (emotionally), is it possible that we are adding to her burdens (spiritually) by encouraging that which ought not to be encouraged, to her detriment?

    I don’t know Sister Kelly and I don’t pretend to know her state of mind, much less her heart. But I can honestly say that I wish her the best. Not what I think is best, but whatever the Lord seeks to bless her with. Whatever the council decides (which is not strictly speaking my business and should be kept as sacred as possible), I hope that it helps her come closer to Christ and that she finds joy and happiness.

  10. Julie:

    Again, you do not counsel the prophet.

    Someone should have told that rebellious indecent Emma to shut her pie hole about that hole School of the Prophets deal. I’d be happily sipping my coffee this morning along with the rest of the universe. Of all the nerve!

    Thank you, ajd.ender. Julie, your advice was to stick to doctrine. Pick up that D&C and you’ll learn she’s right.

  11. I’m a thousand miles away from this vigil, so this gave a pretty good description of what happened. It painted a good picture. Well written James.

    But since all this hymn singing, hugging, and prayer was meant to coincide with a church court on apostasy, it seems like the entire affair was meant to wrap the apostasy up in the cloak of righteousness and hide it. Something like, “Yeah, I reject church doctrine, doubt the leadership/revelatory ability of the Apostles/FP, and encourage others to criticize and demean those called to lead. But because I can still sing hymns, quote scripture, have succeeded in gathering a following who will come here to be with me, and I can APPEAR as if I’m completely faithful, well, then I shouldn’t be disciplined.”

  12. James, I have no problem in people asking questions of their leaders. However, OW has gone from asking questions to making demands and turning what could/should have been a respectful and quiet in-house discussion to a global hit piece on the Church and its leaders on all levels.
    Your gathering during the council was nothing more than another in your face attempt at embarrassing the Church, making the leaders look awful, and making Kate look like a saint. I am concerned that you are enabling apostasy, rather than enabling unity in the Church. The leader of this Church is Jesus Christ, and he allows each of us to directly petition the Father, who can then reveal things to the Prophets. Or don’t you really believe in modern day revelation?
    You begin from the stand point that the leadership is wrong and unwilling to listen. I come from the standpoint that they are faithful to Christ. Who is off base here? I wish nothing bad to Kate or anyone else, but I also feel it unfair for a group to establish themselves as the holy renegades, and think that God is solely on their side.

  13. I had a certain image of KK in one way, but watching a recent interview and hearing her speak shifted my image of her. Her disciplinary council is an absolute ambush? Given her probationary status and disinclination to take down her website citing personal inauthenticity, is it an honest declaration to use the word ambush? I could see the use of “ultimatum” or “threat”, but ambush?

    Her victimization that if she is guilty of apostasy for asking questions, then every person who also asks questions is also guilty of apostasy–can a listener seriously be expected to accept that as an authentic statement of facts? Isn’t setting up a written protocol to recruit non-participating individuals with persuasive oppositionist thinking a stretch beyond asking questions?

    I am glad that I am not her Bishopric, as I would certainly find it personally challenging to love such a member of my congregation. I do not see anything a Bishop could do to merit her respect and cooperation other than to lay aside his charge and capitulate. Nevertheless, I pray for her Bishop as he prayers for guidance in her behalf. May the Lord’s will be made known to him.

  14. I still do not understand why people are so upset by the fact that OW publicizes things, goes to the media, etc. How is shining a light on our actual beliefs and practices embarrassing? If we agree with what the church does, how does revealing it make the church look bad?

    If we are embarrassed by or ashamed of structural inequality (women not holding the priesthood, women excluded from church governance) then we should work to change it. If we’re ok with it or even proud of it, the more publicity the better.

    Excommunicating people seems like shooting the messager, and makes our shame or embarrassment seem justified, as if we really do have something to be embarrassed and ashamed of.

    So do we or not? Or is this all about image management?

  15. Just a quick thought, and then I’ll get back to work …

    My own personal demon is often apathy, indifference. It inspires me when I see others who both care about their faith and take steps in support of an unpopular though sincerely held belief. Here’s a group of people who obviously care deeply about Mormonism, and they’re also taking public action to state a sincere belief. It seems to me, whether they’re right or wrong is beside the point. The main point (from the perspective of a person often beset by doubt and apathy) is that these people are movers. Which, seems to be a better life than being a sitter.

    Let me see if I can state it better: The way I see it, an inspired life is one with hope and faith and courage to make choices that matter, choices that challenge ourselves and others, choices with consequences. If religion isn’t encouraging us to step into the unknown and make challenging choices, then what good is it? (Not a rhetorical question; I’m actually interested in answers.)

  16. When I look at the history of the church, whenever an individual or a group have removed themselves from the main body of the church and drawn attention to themselves through the media, that group or individual has always ended up leaving the church one way or another. Maybe someone better versed in arcane church history may be able to think of an exception, but I can’t.

  17. “Here’s a group of people who obviously care deeply about Mormonism,” ummm, it’s not so obvious though. They disagree with the policies and doctrine, they question the leadership, they criticize the disciplinary procedures, they demand changes … how is it obvious they care about Mormonism??

    Religion is supposed to challenge you? Fine, let them try this challenge: accept what the religion gives, rather than forcing it to change to match your personal desires. I challenge you to be humble enough to be just another member, without taking the spotlight for change or demanding the opportunity to be in charge. I challenge you to step into the unknown, where it is unknown why you aren’t the Bishop, but you are willing to make the challenging choice to trust Christ and trust the people He has choosen and trust that His ways are not our ways, and our reasoning will be foolishness to Him. I challenge you to accept what you are called to do, rather than to call out to do what you want. I challenge you to not seek “thine own life” (Helaman 10:4), but accept the will of the Lord and live the life He wants for you.

  18. CRW, Your statement is a non sequitur. The Church has allowed respectful dissent for a decade or more now. It had no problem with women asking for more opportunities, and has actively sought to provide what can be done without a direct revelation (and possible addition of keys) from God.
    If the Brethren are striving to do God’s will, do you feel they should capitulate to every/any group that demands change?
    What of the groups that demand we return to polygamy? Clearly that is a possibility for us.
    If a group is politically demonstrating against the Church, calling the patriarchal order evil, and demeaning church leaders that are only doing what they believe God has allowed them to do to this point, then we are going far beyond just asking questions.
    There are boundaries that must be drawn on occasion. We have boundaries for those who commit sexual sin. Would you have us also consider eliminating sexual sin, so that we can be a more inclusive Church?
    There is plenty of room for sisters and brothers to discuss their desire to have priesthood power, authority and even office. There is no room for political activists that refuse to yield the field, and instead seek to diminish the Church thru media, etc.

  19. Having been inspired by the many examples in the scriptures of the faithful kicking out apostates and dissenters, I choose to stand with my brothers and sisters in the gospel in supporting the authorities of the church, even down to small details like excommunicating some minor internet self-sensationalizer with media ties.

  20. “small details like excommunicating some minor internet self-sensationalizer”

    Whose soul happens to be of great worth in the sight of God, but, yeah, don’t let the door hit her on the way out, right?

  21. Why all the sorrow for KK. She is going to get her book deal right? That’s what this was all about wasn’t it? Start counting the days till the book deal is inked.

  22. I decided a long time ago to believe in a God who is good, who is just, fair, and loving. When I’m tying myself in knots to believe something is good when it patently is not, then it’s time to step away.

    I realize that obedience is good if it’s obedience to something good. But “obey” by itself is neutral, is a verb that requires an object. I will obey the God who is good as personified by the example of Jesus. I have not seen good in the church or its vocal defenders throughout this episode.

    The institutional church is a temporary, earthly tool to help us get to heaven. It seems to have quit working for me, at least for now. The pain, anger, and sorrow I feel in myself, and the contempt, ridicule, and condescension I feel from my brothers and sisters in the church, are not from my just, loving God.

  23. CRW,

    “And we will prove (test) them herewith, to see if they wil do all things WHATSOEVER the Lord their God shall command them;” (emphasis mine)

    This is what obedience is about, and it is the “test” that everyone says we are here for.

    Also just curious about this “God who is good as personified by the example of Jesus” that you mention. because the true and living God is the same one who “doth suffer that they may do this thing, … according to the hardness of their hearts THAT THE JUDGMENTS WHICH HE SHALL EXERCISE UPONE THEM IN HIS WRATH MAY BE JUST…” (Alma 14:11) Yep, he let wicked people to bad things so that he would be just when he destroyed them and condemned them in judgment. So really, this Kate Kelly thing isn’t as bad as that, right? Either way, you should really come to a clear understanding of who your God is. He is loving, yes. And just. But also describes himself and vengeful and jealous.

  24. Jax (#21):

    Caring deeply about Mormonism. I’m often mistaken when guessing about motivations and beliefs, but it’s fun. Here’s me defending my initial comment.

    I’ll put myself in the shoes of an OW member. I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Self, views that may be divergent from the Mormon faith. Why not I follow another faith? Heaven knows there are plenty to choose from. Or, maybe I’ll try not belonging to any faith tradition. Maybe I’ll take up yoga.” Then over a hot cup of Postum I rethink my position. “But X, Y, and Z doctrines are essential to how I understand my place in the Universe. And, A, B, and C elements of my culture generally give me a sense of home and family. Nope. I can’t leave. I have to make the best go of it that I can.”

    Is that so far off? I see a group of people who are genuine, sincere Mormons who have reached different conclusions on a couple topics, but they are still at heart part of the faith. That’s my best guess Jax.

    Religion as a challenge to the soul. Jax, you raise excellent points. Religion is often at its best when it demands conformity. When religion makes no demands on its members, it becomes more of a book club, an Oprah Book Club. Religion must make demands.

    … but, I can’t seem to shake this thought. There is something beautiful to me about the willful defiance of the gods. To look the threat of damnation in the face and say, “But my conscience says otherwise. I have a choice. Come what may.”

    … Huckleberry Finn. In the story the boy wrote a letter to Jim’s owner to appease Huckleberry’s soul. He’s torn between his love for Jim and what he’s been taught is right.

    It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

    “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up.

    It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.

  25. Josh,

    I think they probably desperately want to keep their membership, because the HG has told them that this is the true church, and it would be impossible for them to deny that. If that was your point, then maybe you are correct for many/most of them. But they don’t love the structure of the church, don’t love the leadership model, demand changes to doctrine and practices. I think their consciences won’t let them leave even though there is much here that they don’t love.

    This person, ““But my conscience says otherwise. I have a choice. Come what may.” doesn’t love or trust God. Doesn’t trust God’s love either. Thinks they know more than God, think their intellect or feelings are better than His. That isn’t beautiful to me. It’s saddening when otherwise good people make eternally fatal mistakes.

  26. Jax,

    This is just a hypothetical question: Is there nothing that would cause you to renounce your Church membership?

    I realize hypotheticals are often dangerous territory, because we could get ourselves all worked up over our imaginations. But, sometimes we learn something from a hypothetical. Surely there is a line somewhere that you wouldn’t cross, no matter what someone in authority demanded of you.

    Again, just a hypothetical and please feel free to ignore this comment.

  27. Where would I go Josh? It is this church that has the saving ordinances. What hypothetical would cause you to leave?? The Lord had Nephi commit murder, Abraham gave Sarah for adultery, Lot gave up his daughters virtue, Abinidi gave his life… what should I be appalled by??

  28. James, I have really appreciated your compassionate voice.

    Julie in comment #5, you wrote:

    “Do I REALLY believe that the voice of the prophets are the same as Jesus Christ’s? This question is at the core of most of the high profile attention the Church has been receiving lately.”

    That question seems to be a polarizing question right now. I can’t count the number of online comments I have read that say something similar to what you’re saying. (e.g. This is Christ’s Church, and He has set it up the way He wants it. The Prophet is God’s mouthpiece, so disagreeing with him is equivalent to opposing God.)

    Then there are Mormons like me, members of the church who believe that the organization and teachings of the Church are subject to human error*.

    I’m frustrated, because I feel that these two groups are pointing fingers and talking past each other rather than really communicating. If you’re a Prophet-always-speaks-for-God kind of a Mormon, then people like me are probably always going to look like rebellious lost souls to you. And I have to admit that I feel like my paradigm (i.e. Church as inspired/true but imperfect organization) is more viable than yours when I look at church history. It’s as if we’re both looking at each other saying, “Don’t you get it? Don’t you see what I see?” I don’t want the two groups to feel increasingly alienated toward each other. How can we bridge the divide?

    *I interpret the words you emphasized in D&C 1:38 to mean that when God speaks through his servants, it is as if He is speaking. To me that does not imply that every time His servants speaks, He is speaking.

  29. Jax (#32):

    Those are all examples of people who violated central precepts of their faith in order to follow what they believed God had asked them to do. Your examples are not conformers; your examples are radicals.

    As I said before, it is unnecessary to say exactly where you would break with your Church. But, I do think it’s worth considering whether there is any line you won’t cross–just hypothetically. Just a thought experiment.

    If you find that there is nothing you wouldn’t do … is there any way you can …

    What about Eve? Moral? Courageous? Deviant?

    (Sometimes it is difficult to convey tone in these comments. Please know that the above was written without any animus at all. Just interest.)

  30. I often hear that when the church was smaller we could petition the leaders, but now that there are 5 million (active) its impossible to communicate. Was there more revelation when it was possible?

    Is there a site where you can comment on present and possible future US Government policy? How many potential contributors are there to it?

    So it would be possible for the church to do that?

    Now some of the contributors above who believe that “whether by my own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same” also means when a GA speaks it is the same as the Saviour speaking.

    I have been a member long enough to remember conference talks in support of racism, when my wife and I became engaged, her bishop reminded her that the church did not approve of intercultural marriages, (a version of inter racial marriages) she was english and I australian. When we were first married we regularly had conference talks about the evils of birth control, so we had 3 children under 4, but the doctor was warning that my wife could die with another pregnancy. Perhaps we should have had more faith and risked it?

    These are some of the doctrines taught by GA as Gospel in my lifetimes that have been quietly dropped. In order to retain my testimony that this is the restored Gospel, i now believe the above and many of the current teachings, which have no basis in scripture, are the culture of the GA being taught as if it is Gospel, and certainly not equal to the voice of the Lord.

    We do need to be able to communicate our concerns to the highest levels of the church leadershp and there is no reason it couldnot be done.

  31. Interesting read, James. In some ways the vigil was very Mormon as you describe but in other ways it was very non-Mormon. What I mean is how many times are vigils held at the stake center during excommunication councils? Maybe it happens more than I think but I have never seen or heard of one. I suspect that most of the time the “vigils” are held by the parents or loved ones of the soon-to-be-excommunicated member in the privacy of their own home where those parents and loved ones are by themselves praying for divine guidance, during the process.

    So, to me, this vigil seems out of place at best and at worst it seems like a publicity stunt. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that many of the attendees deeply care for Sister Kelly, but my personal approach would be to spend more time privately on my knees than publicly in the open. As I write this it seems like that might be the problem with this whole mess.

  32. DB, I grant it’s an innovation, and thus new and so not obviously “Mormon” in a traditional sense. Notice again, however, that your own solution 1. Doesn’t allow for a collective or community element; and 2. Can’t stand as a collective petition. (You might could encourage folks to gather in doors somewhere, satisfying #1, but doing so still fails #2). My point is that we have no means – official, formal, traditional, organic, or other – to collectively petition our leaders now that we are a millions strong church. Individual, uncoordinated action is ineffective (this is a simple empirical fact – individuals have been expressing concerns on a local level for decades with a host of results, from excommunication to alienation to cathartic love and embrace, but never leading to a prophetic response). The only other alternative at this point is to do what (again empirically) has been proven effective in other social institutions: protest, leverage the media, garner support from outside organizations, etc. This seems to be exactly the line that (only now) has been drawn in the sand with Sister Kelly’s excommunication.

    So once again, we’re left with an individual and ineffective means of petition on the one hand, or a now deemed apostate collective action on the other. I’m suggesting here that quiet, faithful, non-media frenzied vigils on the doorsteps of our leaders might become an acceptable, faithful means of collective petitioning. I personally felt that this particular vigil played exactly that role. Whether or not it could become a longterm answer to our current institutional need – I don’t know. Not without semi-official endorsement. But I certainly hope we don’t continue merrily on our option-less path.

    And just as on my other post, the comments here highlight what a difficult problem it is. The only substantive responses are either: 1. Just be individual, local, and ineffective; or 2. Use OW-style public tactics and be inappropriate. No one has even offered a third alternative. We haven’t yet imagined for ourselves what one might be.

  33. Thanks James for your response. I guess my response would be that the petitions for change should be directed toward God rather than toward the local or even worldwide leaders. I admit, though, that that response is based on my particular view of church governance and the role of prophets. Others clearly don’t view things that way though.

  34. drbewhaha: That’s a point of commonality amongst us all. I don’t know anyone who cares at all about this issue – one way or another – who doesn’t think we should and in fact actively is petitioning God. What’s at stake here is the fact that it USED to be the case that we could also petition our prophets (at least collectively if not individually). And the scriptures are replete with the faithful (and unfaithful – like the magician in Acts) petitioning the prophets on matters of great importance to the community. The size of the church today has made that impossible. So your proposal amounts to taking away from the church something that has always been an important element. Maybe in fact that’s what will happen. But it’s hard not to feel like it’s a massive loss, and one of the major reasons for our current turbulence.

  35. You have to feel for apostles. Over the past year, more than half of them have tried in General Conference to address this issue in a very kind and non-confrontational way, but some can’t read between the lines. At what point does the petitioner’s position change from that of 14 y/o Joseph into Martin Harris and the lost plates?

  36. “And the scriptures are replete with the faithful (and unfaithful – like the magician in Acts) petitioning the prophets on matters of great importance to the community.” Yes, and when the church acknowledges your voice and tells you that you need to stop, you should stop.

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