Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Thoughts on the Excommunication of Kate Kelly

I remember having a conversation with my parents when I was in high school, telling them how I envisioned my future. I described myself as highly successful in the business world, with a supportive husband who happily fulfilled his role as a stay-at-home dad, welcoming me home each evening with my favorite pair of fuzzy slippers and a beautifully prepared dinner. Fast forward to today, when I am a stay-at-home mom of three beautiful children, dutifully filling my days with laundry and homework assistance and even an occasional beautifully prepared dinner. So how did I get from point A to point B? In a word, I became a Mormon.

When I was 18, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was not a decision that I took lightly or came to easily. I grew up with a great grandmother who was a Pentecostal minister and I had been taught for pretty much my entire life that Mormons were evil and were all going to hell. So I read and studied and after much prayer and contemplation I realized that the Mormon Church was Christ’s true church, restored to the earth in these latter days. I came to know for myself that the Book of Mormon was true and that it was truly another testament of Jesus Christ, a perfect companion to the Holy Bible.

Over the past few weeks Kate Kelly, the founder of a group called Ordain Women, has received a tremendous amount of coverage in the mainstream media. Her organization basically calls for women in the church to be given the Priesthood, something that is currently reserved for men. In a nutshell, she has picketed at our Church’s General Conference, received letters from our church asking her to stop advocating for this position, and this past week she was excommunicated. Obviously that is the story very simply stated, but it’s the crux of what happened.  She has cried foul, that she was only questioning why things are they way they are and that she is a faithful member of the Church whose membership should not be revoked.

But here’s the thing. She wasn't excommunicated because she was questioning why women don’t hold the Priesthood. According to the Ordain Women website,

Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.

She is not advocating the questioning of church policies, she is advocating “the NEED for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

To clarify, in the Mormon church we believe that we have a modern day Prophet who leads us according to the will of our father in heaven, or God. Twice a year we raise our hands to sustain this prophet, affirming that we will support and follow his council. His council at this time is that only men hold the priesthood. Now some may say that this is sexist. I say it is a division of labor. In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” it says:

…fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

That’s right, EQUAL partners. We are EQUAL in the church. We are not the same, but we ARE equal.

So back to Kate Kelly. She says she is a faithful member of the church. But she’s not. She doesn’t only have an opinion which is contrary to what the Church teaches, she is advocating that others follow her and attempt to change the structure of the church in which she claims to believe.

Here’s the thing. If you believe that the Mormon Church is true, you believe that we have a prophet who receives revelation from God the Father, and that he leads the church accordingly. As such, you follow his leadership and council because you know the source from which it originates. If you believe that women should hold the priesthood today, then you don’t believe that the church is true. It’s that simple. I say “today” because there is nothing to say that someday women won’t hold the priesthood. In the Mormon Church there was a time when the doctrine of polygamy was followed, but it was for a specific purpose at a specific time. Once that purpose had been fulfilled, the members of the church were instructed to cease its practice.

Some may say that the Mormon Church requires blind faith. Well, by definition faith IS blind so in that way I guess it does. But I can honestly say that over the years when I have questioned why things are a certain way, I have studied and prayed and found answers that address my concerns.

If Kate Kelly doesn’t feel her concerns can be adequately addressed within the current structure of the church, she does not have to count herself among its members. We are not handcuffed and forced to follow this religion. I know many individuals who have chosen to leave the church for various reasons—returned missionaries, people who have been married in the Holy temple, former Elders Quorum presidents. One of the very basic tenants of our faith is that our father in heaven has given us agency—the ability to make our own decisions. You can choose to believe or do whatever you want. But guess what? You can’t choose the consequences.

No one is faulting Kate Kelly for choosing to believe what she does. But as she is trying to start a “feminist movement” within the church and leading faithful members away, there is naturally a consequence. That consequence is the revocation of her church membership. If she doesn’t believe what the church believes, that is fine.  But let’s say she was a member of any other group and suddenly, as a card carrying member, she started trying to convince other members of the group to basically rebel against the said group. I’m pretty sure she would be asked to leave. That’s exactly what happened here.

After 18 years of membership in the Church, I can tell you that it is not an organization that belittles or minimizes the importance of women. Quite to the contrary, I know of no other group that so openly celebrates women and their divine contributions. This is not an issue of a church trying to exercise control over its members or to “show the women who’s boss.” So let’s not try to make this into something that it’s not.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be a horrible, horrible travesty if she actually were a prophet denied access to fulfill her spiritual destiny because the 'man in charge' had fallen victim to his own ego? I find it highly disturbing that you are equating the strength of a parishoner's faith with their ability to blindly follow without questioning the justness of decisions made by men. Lets just hope that you are right.

Cori said...

In the Mormon Church we believe that the person who leads us is a prophet of God. One of the basic principles of our doctrine is a belief that the prophet cannot lead us astray, nor would he profess anything that is contrary to the will of God. While I do feel sympathy for this person, I cannot understand how she could sustain the head of our church as the Lord’s prophet here on earth, and then go against the very words which he speaks. Please understand that when the prophet speaks in his capacity as the head of the church, he is speaking the words and delivering the message that God himself would deliver if he were standing upon the earth today. It is in this context that I make the claim that her understanding is skewed. If an individual sustains the prophet as such and then does not follow the words which he speaks, how can they claim to understand the will of God?