LDS Church Responds to Supreme Court Ruling Refusing to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in response to today's Supreme Court ruling refusing to hear same-sex marriage cases has released this statement on the Mormon Newsroom:
The succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God. In prizing freedom of conscience and Constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices.Nevertheless, respectful coexistence is possible with those with differing values. As far as the civil law is concerned, the courts have spoken. Church leaders will continue to encourage our people to be persons of good will toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief, and differences in sexual orientation.

Oct 2014 General Conference: How to Watch, Invite and Share! #LDSConf

Information for Oct 2014 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: This much anticipated meeting will be held in the LDS Conference Center, Salt Lake City, Utah. This is an exciting time for Mormons worldwide!  We have the opportunity to hear from our Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, as well as many other prominent Church leaders to receive relevant counsel and direction to help strengthen us as individuals, and as a people, committed to living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

About General Conference:
"General conference is a semiannual gathering of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During general conference weekend, Church members and others who are interested gather worldwide in a series of two-hour sessions to receive inspiration and instruction from Church leaders.

All sessions of General Conference are available, live, on the Internet at LDS.org.

General Women's Meeting: Disciples of Jesus Christ and Gender Equality

Sometimes I wonder if I belong to the same church as other members. But then I have to remind myself that because I'm a 'tad' older than some, I might be aware of just a few more facts about my faith: Mormonism. 

For example, not once have I ever questioned my discipleship -- I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. Such a designation has nothing to do with gender but covenants. Therefore, when President Dieter F. Uchtdorf during the October 2014 General Women's Meeting referred to the women of the LDS Church as "blessed disciples of Jesus Christ" I didn't give it a second thought -- of course we are. Duh. Did I think it was a lovely way to address the sisters? Yes. But that's where it ended. Now, what are you going to teach me?

No disrespect intended, but upon initially hearing that President Uchtdorf's simple reference got picked up by national media as a big deal I had to laugh. I mean, isn't the definition of disciple, from a Christian perspective, a follower of Jesus Christ? And then I recalled that many don't consider Mormons Christian so perhaps that was it?

Nope. I was totally wrong. Apparently, Mormon feminists had an epiphany about a few things said during the meeting. (Pertaining to priesthood and gender equality.) When they heard President Uchtdorf address the women of the Church as disciples, they were floored. He also referred to our having "heavenly parents" -- part of Mormon doctrine. Anyway, with that and a few other tidbits off they went to noise abroad their new discoveries! Here's how the Huffington Post reported the good news:

"Mormon feminists may have been surprised by some subtle changes in vocabulary and approach Saturday (Sept. 27) at the church’s general women’s meeting.  
Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the audience — sitting in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching via satellite in chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe — not just as “sisters” but also as “blessed disciples of Jesus Christ.”  
In a speech about living out one’s faith joyfully, Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents,” alluding to the Mormon belief in male and female deities."

Not to be rude, but no changes occurred. Nothing new. Nada. The earth hasn't shifted. Rather, the gospel is consistent, steady, reliable --  firmly rooted in eternal doctrine.

In fact, addressing the membership of the Church in the April 2010 General Conference President Uchtdorf said this:

"Let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn. We are commanded “to mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”" (You Are My Hands)

Ironically, and apparently missed, Linda K. Burton, general Relief Society president during last April's General Women's Meeting referenced the women of the Church as disciples, too.

"As true disciples, may we offer our willing hearts and our helping hands to hasten His work." (Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work)

Elder L. Tom Perry, Special Witness: Being a Disciple of Jesus Christ, The Friend 2003.

"The central purpose of our [life] is to prepare to meet God and inherit the blessings He has promised to His worthy children. The Savior set the pattern during His earthly ministry and encouraged those who followed Him to become His disciples..."

"As true disciples of Christ, may our lives reflect His example. May God bless us that we will earnestly desire to do our spiritual housecleaning, getting into all the corners, cleaning out all those things that would [keep us from being] a disciple of the Lord so that we can move forward in our service to Him who is our King and Savior."

President Henry B. Eyring, A Voice of Warning, October 1998
"Our ability to touch others with our warning voice matters to all who are covenant disciples of Jesus Christ. Here is the charge given to each of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81)."

I could share so many more references but hopefully you get the idea.

And then there's the revelatory reference to us being "daughters of heavenly parents." Think of it, every time The Family: A Proclamation to the World is referred to by a leader of the Church, the doctrine that we have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father is officially reiterated. That we have heavenly parents is commonly referenced throughout LDS teachings. All one has to do is go to LDS.org and run a search for "heavenly parents" to reject the ideas advocated that this is a remote doctrine of the Church -- it's not. Or that women being referred to, as disciples of Jesus Christ are new vocabulary -- it is not.

What we need to be watchful for and see, as suspect in this kind of media hype, is feminist advocacy -- plain and simple. The Church is politically neutral and nothing that takes place in a session of general conference, which the General Women's Meeting is, is intended to make a political statement of any kind. Nor is it meant to pander to select groups that desire policy changes in the Church.

What was taught during the General Women's Meeting that truly deserves a shout out? Everything! Meaning, every word uttered meant to instruct the sisters of the Church how to return to our Heavenly Parents -- this is where women of covenant focus their attention. Not on how some interpret what happened surrounding the meeting.

Everything worthy of our attention and application pointed to holy temples and the making and keeping of sacred covenants. Anything that distract us from inspired messages is contrary to the purpose of the General Women's Meeting, thus to God. Reject it. 

Here is what I heard and hold in my heart. (My notes.)

The truth about discipleship is that it brings divine power. Knowing who we are is directly related to temple attendance and faithfully keeping our covenants. Keeping commandments is God's way to show His love and bless us -- it will reveal our divine worth. Commandments mark the path to our eternal home. The perfect pattern of becoming like Jesus Christ is the temple. If we are to be a light in the world, as He is, and assist in the work of salvation, like the temple, we must be light. Go to the temple. Our divine origin is that we are daughters of God. His divine plan for us to return to His presence requires the choice to keep covenants. Meaning, our divine destiny must be claimed through the righteous use of agency. The influence of good women is sorely needed in the world today. We have made a covenant to stand for Jesus Christ and that requires courage and action. Living the gospel is not a burden -- it is joyful! Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us -- remove the umbrellas of doubt. God knows things we don't! Only through the atonement of Jesus Christ can we overcome our weaknesses. We must humble ourselves. If we want to give light, we must glow ourselves. (Monson) The Spirit speaks of eternal promises. Temple covenants lay the foundation of an eternal family. Sacred temple covenants give us strength and power. There is peace, power and protection in making and keeping covenants. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. We are His and we have made a covenant to remember Him always. Joseph Smith desired that those who enter the temple would feel the power of God. Those who wish to receive exaltation are required to receive a higher standard of living. Make sure our homes are places to feel the Spirit and then we will be at home when entering the temple. The oil of spiritual preparation cannot be shared... We can do small and simple things to add oil to our spiritual preparation. The best way to strengthen a home current or future is to keep covenants.

I know this counsel is inspired and if we are faithful to these teachings and continue to trust in the Lord and diligently keep temple covenants we will have happiness and peace in this life and the next. We will come to a true understanding of our equal standing before God and with all those who walk this same path - male and female. This, is the good news of the gospel that deserves our undivided attention and efforts.

Kathryn Skaggs

Photo credits: LDS.org

Got Pain? Me, too. Now what?

As children of covenant, we turn to our Heavenly Father at all times and in all circumstances for His guidance and answers to life’s most difficult questions and challenges. Life is a test. Whether we experience emotional pain due to a personal trial of faith, or are negatively affected by those nearest to us (for divers reasons), we seek the relief and peace, which can only be found through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

When the Conversation Does Not Support the Doctrine

Recently though, there’s been a noticeable uptick in online conversations focusing on pain – namely, emotional pain experienced by some Mormon women; most self-described as feminists. This pain is directly associated with being a female member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is said to be the result of a widespread, perceived gender disparity.

The dialogue goes something like this: LDS women in large numbers are experiencing deep pain due to feelings of inequality in the Church and therefore… Most often, these feelings are in response to a negative encounter(s) a sister has had with a person who exercises priesthood authority -- a man. Other female members (presumed to have never experienced similar pain) are labeled as judgmental of the expressed pain -- making it difficult for those struggling with pain to find unity and empathy among the body of the Saints. In order to fix the perceived inequity, changes in LDS Church policy must be made. And from the most progressive voices, only female priesthood ordination will ultimately satisfy.

Note: This post is not about whether or not changes in LDS Church policy should or should not be made and what those changes should be. It is about what the catalyst for change within the Church should be based upon. Is it inspired? Or, is it contrived? And, does it matter?

Apostolic Warning About Perceived Inequality in the Church

Elder M. Russell Ballard gave this pertinent instruction during a 1993 General Conference address (perhaps more relevant today) titled: EqualityThrough Diversity. He said, “In these latter days, we see people, increasing in number, who urge others to feel and voice dissent when frustration and hardship enter their lives. They would have us believe that the Church or its leaders are unfair to women, or that women are denied opportunities to realize their full potential within the gospel framework. Sisters, we know that the Church is made up of mortals, that priesthood leaders are fallible, and some may not always handle their stewardships with suitable sensitivity. However, I want you to understand this plain truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the only way for women or men to achieve their full potential as children of God. Only the gospel can free us from the terrible effects of sin. Only by following God’s plan for us, with faith and determination to live ultimately in eternal families, can we qualify for eternal life in His presence. Ideally, the Church and the family do not inhibit our progress. They expedite it by putting our feet firmly on the gospel path that leads us back to God. We each have the privilege to carefully and prayerfully seek the Lord’s will for us regarding our individual challenges and dilemmas. Personal revelation is personal, indeed. It is not based on gender or position but on worthiness. It comes in response to sincere inquiry. However, revelation for the Church comes only through the Lord’s prophets, seers, and revelators. In these confusing times, keeping our feet on the gospel path can be difficult. We hear many persuasive voices urging us to turn our backs on revealed truth and embrace the philosophies of the world.”

The scenario above is also blamed on a purported increase of females leaving the Church and it not being friendly for women going forward into a progressive secular society – particularly for Millenials. Therefore, changes in Church policy must be made so that Mormon women will no longer experience the pain and alienation, which results from the current experience of the status quo Mormon culture.

The Catalyst for LDS Church Policy Changes

It should be of concern if potential policy changes were based on such criteria. In all likelihood the emotional pain that is suffered, due to relationship malfunctions, not intended in the gospel plan, would not spare any of us from the inevitable pitfalls of dealing with mere mortals – male and female. As you might imagine then, this is a sensitive issue to broach – not wanting to offend or minimize the experience of those in pain.

With that said, I feel that we are facing a similar problem (or stumbling block) that we have recently had in understanding righteous, temporary 'judgment' – it being misunderstood as un-Christlike. The current trend to identify ‘pain points’ of our sisters and how it is inflicted by other members may very well be the intent of the adversary to divide us. We often see these dynamics closely related as they are frequently discussed in tandem -- one bringing the other into play, so to speak. The point is both have their place in bringing us together, if we apply Christlike principles or to divide us if used to manipulate and control. Let us never forget, Satan is the master of deception and contention.

True Doctrine Understood Changes Attitudes

Holy scripture proclaims, and it is the Relief Society motto that: Charity Never Faileth. When charity is exercised toward others, we are assured success – or rather the ability to overcome and make right all things.

Charity is the “pure love of Christ.” God’s love, in its Fulness, is manifest in the Atonement. As mortals, naturally, we lack greatly even a smidgen of this charity. We learn that charity is a spiritual gift, of which all are commanded to seek. We’ve learned that without charity we are useless to the Lord and will fail at all attempts to act contrary. Charity brings into our lives the grace of God – His power to endure to the end and love, as He loves.

Sister Sheri Dew taught about the power, need and source of grace during the 2014 BYU Women’s Conference devotional. She said, “Every divine gift and every spiritual privilege that gives us access to the power of heaven comes from Christ or through Christ or because of Christ. We owe everything to Him and to our Father in Heaven, including the privileges of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost; of receiving personal revelation and gifts of the Spirit; of being endowed in the temple with knowledge and priesthood power; of learning the “mysteries of the kingdom even the key of the knowledge of God”; of having angels on our right and on our left; of receiving all the blessings of the Atonement; and of receiving eternal life, the “greatest of all the gifts of God.” With this understanding, it is a quandary that we would look to any other source, or answer, for the comfort and healing, which we so desperately desire when afflicted with the pains of mortality!

Emotional pain is real – let’s make no mistake about it lest we risk minimizing another’s reality. Mortality is notorious in assuring that all will find need of reconciliations aplenty. God’s plan and His gospel provide the remedy -- thus, the conflict at hand.

The Advocacy to Minimize the Atonement

In the case of emotional pain brought on through Church association, coupled with perceived gender inequality, however, the ‘pain holding’ becomes suspect. It is reasonable then for those with similar experiences (less gender issues), or not, to feel perplexed by a supposed need to, in a sense, exploit shared experiences for a cause -- versus seeking relief through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and moving forward. It feels to minimize faith, actually. Therefore, it is legitimate to have this conversation so that we might discern if a possible motive for the holding of pain exists and if so, appropriately challenge the thought process.

I believe that we need to carefully discern the cause of all division of thought in what and how and if Church policies in regard to female members should or should not change. Frankly, we should expect change continually, in regard to policies in general – not doctrine. Change is positive when it is inspired.

However, do we really want or feel it inspired if changes to increase the work of salvation were motivated by emotional pain either intentionally or unintentionally and caused by those who hold the keys of the priesthood? Personally, I don’t. And in fact, I am compelled to reject such a thesis.

In a 1989 General Conference address titled ‘The Canker of Contention’ Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention. How easy it is, yet how wrong it is, to allow habits of contention to pervade matters of spiritual significance, because contention is forbidden by divine decree.” Christ Himself spoke adamantly about contention when He insisted that, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me [saith the Lord], but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11:29–30.)

To be Seen, Heard and Valued as Women in the LDS Church

News Flash: Many women in the Church, throughout the years, have had uncomfortable experiences with priesthood leaders (men) and women, too, which have left them feeling sad, depressed and lacking control of a temporary situation.

I could offer a number of personal stories -- products of my over 37 years of activity in the Church. I’ve served as a Relief Society president once and as a counselor numerous times. I’ve served as the Relief Society education counselor on the stake level, twice. And, I’ve served as the Young Women’s president twice and as a counselor more times than I can count. I share these positions with you, not to wave my Church ‘resume’ but rather to make a point. You bet that with that many opportunities to engage with other members, male and female, I have had a glitch here and there along the way. And a few, have left me with having to deal with deep emotional pain, requiring desperate pleas to my Father in Heaven for relief and the ability to forgive and most important, forget.

I’ve stood at the precipice of  ‘that’ black hole (those having been there know), which could have easily sucked me in, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for me to crawl out. If I had made the choice to give in to the bitter feelings, which had completely overwhelmed my soul during those times and inflicted such deep sorrow that I could not alone handle, I might, even now, be lost. Of note (which must be pointed out), is that my emotional pain because of my willingness to serve in the Church was not due to male only encounters. These are problems of mortality, relationships, and differences of perspective and opinion… personalities, perhaps, and frankly, lack of inspiration.

In each of the negative encounters that I’ve had to negotiate in order to press forward and not allow the adversary to take hold, my only answer, literally, was to access the Grace of God, through His Son Jesus Christ – and I knew it! I needed Him and nothing else would suffice, lest by my own choice I place myself in bondage, incapable of feeling the Spirit as I always had before. And then, the blame game would have inevitably ensued – as it always does when we choose to be a victim.

“Grace is divine power that enables us to handle things we can’t figure out, can’t do, can’t overcome, or can’t manage on our own. We have access to this power because Jesus Christ who was already a God, condescended to endure the bitterness of a fallen world and experience all physical and spiritual pain.” ~ Sister Sheri Dew

Come Unto Christ and Take His Yoke Upon You

Without going into personal details, because I have learned how emotional pain places us in bondage, is intended to incite fear and create barriers, and can be used to manipulate people and conversations, a sweet friend has allowed me to share her very intimate thoughts during a recent exchange, on topic.

“I'm feeling that the solution to the pain these women feel is [to develop] a very personal intimate relationship with God. I don't mean to say they aren't faithful, aren't praying or studying. There is a quote by Sister Dew – she said, “Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.” When that is quoted many, get offended, as if we are insulting their knowledge of the doctrines. I believe this quote applies not only in the macro, but also in the micro. Maybe even more importantly in the micro. What is their understanding of their personal doctrines, personal commandments?

One of the most difficult things to understand is [the self]. Why do things upset us? Why do we let other things go? If we are continually looking for outside answers, we will forever be getting the wrong answers because that is not where they are found. Yet, we look for outside answers because they are easier than doing the inner work. That inner work can feel like there is a wrecking crew in your heart and mind. Blaming someone else can be tempting. Even when others have offended in very real ways, there is inner personal work to do to heal. While God views us with mercy in these situations, it doesn't mean he takes away the need for inner work.

A personal example might explain more clearly.

Most of you know the struggle I have had with my priesthood leaders throughout my divorce. I was deeply wounded by my bishop; I feel he made things worse. In my pain and confusion over my own feelings and life situation, I couldn't connect with him. As I [worked] on myself, coming to understand and heal, I [realized] there were very real structures in my own heart that predisposed me to take what he said negatively. I am not absolving him, but I am saying that as I heal my own heart I can see the way to communicating with him more clearly, in a way that he can learn to counsel women in my situation more sensitively and I can receive counsel from my priesthood steward. This is all a process, one that takes as long as it takes. Honestly, it is frightening to walk; I wish there were a different way.

The problem is, if someone had not extremely tactfully presented me with the idea that I have work to do to heal from what others have done, I would have just built more fortifications in my heart, instead of beginning the work to tear them down. Yes, the responsibility for a kingdom of God focused on respecting God's daughters and sons relies on priesthood leaders acting in righteous ways, it also requires each member doing inner work.

If I'm completely honest with my opinion, I feel those at the heart of [the Ordain Women movement] have deep personal work they are avoiding. The greater the outside chaos created, the better it distracts attention from the real work waiting in their own souls. I'll repeat: even when others have offended in very real ways, there is inner personal work to do to heal, to access the atonement. Our pain clouds our view of the Savior, our access to the Spirit. Doing the inner work to clear pain from our view makes the synergy between priesthood and sisterhood more likely.”

Perhaps these are hard things to hear. Actually, I know they are because when I wasn’t personally in the right space to hear them myself, I lashed out at my giver.

Hope Through the Atonement of  Jesus Christ

Fortunately, the pain I experienced during those tough spiritual trials are years behind me. Today, I am actually grateful for having had to wrestle those demons, realizing just how vulnerable every single one of us are to the fiery darts of the adversary. My heart goes out to all in bondage to emotional pain. However, there is hope the minute you turn away from all things that cause you to remain and instead make the choice to look to God and live.

I’ve come to know the power of the Atonement and that His Grace truly is ‘more’ than sufficient. I have learned with new eyes the beauty of gender diversity in the work of the Lord and now see it as truly brilliant! I wouldn’t have it any other way. God’s way is to make us equal with Him and that requires us to apply every characteristic of Christ in our daily comings and goings. He uses opposition to grow gods.

Because of my sensitivity to the current conversation, where I feel that emotional pain is potentially being used to manipulate a broad conversation to advocate policy changes in the Church, I feel it’s important to share my insights and cautions even though I know that, for some, what I have to say will not be well-received and, likely, strongly opposed. But I know that the pain we experience in this life is not intended to control, manipulate or divide us. It is to, in contrast, bring us to our knees that we may come to rely on our Savor and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and apply the Atonement to our lives – truly experience it. Only in this way, will we ever come to know the depth of love our Father in Heaven has for each and every one of us, His Children, equally.

“Tell your Heavenly Father how you feel. Tell Him about your pain and your afflictions, and then give them to Him. Search the scriptures daily. There you will also find great solace and help.”
Sister Linda S. Reeves


Kathryn Skaggs

Recommended reading on similar topic:

Mormon Women: Thoughts on doctrine, culture, structure, practice, visibility, change

The Millennial Star: Using Joy to Overcome The Pain Narrative

Mormon Women Stand: Pain - Embrace Peace or Seek Incomplete Solutions

You might also enjoy listening to this FairMormon podcast. I was interviewed along with my co-founder for Mormon Women Stand. Much of what was discussed is applicable to this conversation: 

Articles of Faith 14: Mormon Women Stand – Defending Prophetic Authority

And this from The Rains Came Down: Female Ordination: How to Stop Hurting

Mormon Apostle to Speak on Member Use of Social Media and Internet

You're darn right when I find out an Apostle of the Lord, Elder David A. Bednar, will be the keynote speaker at the BYU Education Week Devotional, this Tuesday, August 19th, on the topic of Social Media I'm going to blog about it. Especially when, coincidentally, I will be there. Boo-Yah!

You also may have heard that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated Handbook 2 with new guidelines for using social media and the Internet.
In addition to the new handbook language, a companion article has been published that gives examples of what can and cannot be done: Use of Online Resources in Church Callings

“Members are encouraged to use the Internet to flood the earth with testimonies of the Savior and His restored gospel. They should view blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies as tools that allow them to amplify their voice in promoting the messages of peace, hope, and joy that accompany faith in Christ. 
Members are encouraged to share messages from official Church websites and social accounts, as well as their own words, images, and media. As members express their own thoughts and feelings, they should not give the impression that they represent or are sponsored by the Church. 
As members use the Internet to hasten the work of the Lord, they should exemplify civility and focus on sharing praiseworthy messages that strengthen those with whom they come in contact.” (Handbook 2)

How did I get so blessed to hit this unprecedented event, when I haven't attended #byuedweek in well over 10 years? Seriously, this was a last minute decision to go/come. (I'm in Utah right now -- just got in today.) Honestly, I don't believe this is coincidence at all. Do you? It's as though the social media stars have aligned so that I could attend, in the flesh, seeing as I have such a love and passion for sharing the gospel online via social media and have been doing it for quite sometime.

You might recall that I was invited to speak at BYU Women's Conference just this last May on a related topic -- Social Media: New Ways to Share the Gospel Online. I genuinely believe that social media is the Lord's Power Tool. I'm still planning on posting my presentation, soon. (Post in draft, some technical difficulties getting slideshow to setup properly. Sigh.) Hopefully, it will be fully in keeping with what Elder Bednar will teach and counsel us about this week and perhaps I may even update some of my content with the new counsel and direction --- I imagine that I will.

But that's not all. My current calling, kind of unprecedented, too:  Social Media/Blog Specialist on my local Mulit-Regional Public Affairs Council. (MRPAC)True. As you can see, my life of service and choice of activity revolves around this topic. From my perspective then, it seems only fitting that someone upstairs has finagled things so that I will be sitting in that Marriott Center come this Tuesday morning. Thank you!

How to Watch BYU Education Week Devotional Online, August 19, 2014:

Now, for those of you just as interested in this topic as I am (which should be many of you, seeing as you're on the Internet reading this post and you're a covenant member of the Church) Elder Bednar's address will be streamed live at 11:10am MDT on BYU-TV and the Mormon Channel. Be sure and visit LDS.org to learn more and definitely don't miss this devotional.

I'd also like to encourage those of you active on various social networks, such as Twitter (#TwitterStake) and Facebook, to help share Elder Bednar's words in real-time using hashtags #byuedweek and #byudevo as a way to get more involved and really show the power of social media to broadcast a message, broadly. Because that's how we use social media when one of the Lord's Special Witnesses' speaks. Right? What a wonderful and fun opportunity to be a part of this event.

And, FYI, rumor has it that Elder Bednar's presentation will be very social media friendly with perhaps an invitation to participate in real-time on the Internet. (Maybe.) So, consider yourself being given a head's up on how cool this broadcast is going to be and how you can be part of LDS Church History!

Okay, I'm really spreading rumors today... but I've also heard in some of my online LDS circles that we might even hear about a new Church website (or initiative) in conjunction with this broadcast. Sort of a way to bring many of our efforts to do good online, together. Just sayin. I have absolutely NO inside, official scoop -- other than it all seems to fit a pattern I've seen in the recent past and Church social media 'stuff'. 

Anyway, I'm excited and hope that you are, too. And, really, really hope you'll join me and share this event and the buzz surrounding it in real-time, this Tuesday. (And this post to get the word out.) Okay, done rambling. Don't miss it! These are truly exciting times!

Lastly, in preparation for the devotional (because his address is part 2) the Church is encouraging members to review Elder Bednar's powerful address: Things As They Really Are. If you've never listened or read this talk, it's a must. I took the time on my flight today to re-read it and really study it. Whoa! I thought it was great when he first gave it (I was teaching Seminary at the time), but oh my it is even more relevant now. All I can say is, read it and prepare to be taught by this Apostle of the Lord, big time

"Obedience opens the door to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And the spiritual gifts and abilities activated by the power of the Holy Ghost enable us to avoid deception—and to see, to feel, to know, to understand, and to remember things as they really are. You and I have been endowed with a greater capacity for obedience precisely for these reasons. Moroni declared: 
“Hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him. 
“Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God” (Mormon 9:27–28)." 
Elder David A. Bednar,
From a Church Educational System fireside address delivered at Brigham Young University–Idaho on May 3, 2009.


Kathryn Skaggs

Photo Credit: LDS.org

Excommunication All the Rage!

It's appalling. Many progressive members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint are finding themselves unified with ex-Mormons and anti-Mormons to do what they've mastered over the last few years: use national media to shame the Church. By airing personal grievances about the recent need for disciplinary actions regarding two activists’ members in sore need of rebuke the idea is to portray the male hierarchy of the Church as antiquated, uninformed and lacking compassion for its female members.

It’s no secret that to capture the attention of mainstream media all one need do is be extreme. Like bees to honey then, they come in swarms, especially if you place Mormon, women and inequality in the same space. Or like they say, if you build a good enough story they will come -- and oh my, the architects and storytellers are out in droves. So much so, that you'd think excommunication was all the rage!

But it's not -- it's very serious business and no truly faithful Mormon thinks otherwise. 

Excommunication is the most severe form of censure the Church metes out to one of its own and is never done lightly. Nor is it done as a form of member control. However, if you're anti-Mormon, apostate or simply uniformed it’s very likely you see LDS Church discipline as a negative -- the exact opposite of its intended purpose

The Lord has plainly taught, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Sadly though, it seems like many with disgruntled feelings toward the Church, who enjoy talking about it publicly are taking advantage of this 'extended' Mormon moment, if you will, and telling their stories to anyone who will listen; members and media alike.

The strategy is employed to press for hoped cultural and/or doctrinal change within the Church reflective of a world that rejects moral absolutes and religious authority. The way it works is that by crafting a highly manipulative narrative intended to embarrass the Church you can get the leadership to act in opposition to the accusations made; so as not to prove them right. I realize this may sound ridiculous to some, even juvenile, but as one who has followed the ongoing saga for quite sometime, in my opinion, this seems to be what's happening. The pattern can be found consistently throughout the conversations they employ, broadly -- look for it at your own risk.

But here's the problem from how I see it and why this never works: the head of the Church is Jesus Christ and He makes sure His Prophets' don't fall for this type of manipulation -- ever. And to those who advocate with personal interpretations of LDS Church History to prove otherwise, from everything I can tell the Church disagrees with you. What we have then in seeing these various groups unite in opposition to the Church is a broad-scale public tantrum; it’s that simple. And this time they've made sure their reach includes the Church's core community of faithful, conservative members by judging them divisive for standing with the Church and its leaders. Their tales have taken in some members but not most – and many are finally speaking out.

Members of the Mormon faith believe that God has a prophet upon the earth today who speaks His will and directs the Church through inspiration. To those who are asking the question: What did Kate Kelly do? Or John Dehlin for that matter, understanding this might help you to put two and two together and see the bigger picture of what's currently happening within the LDS Church.

Sure, people may have whatever opinion they choose... talk about it, create social media to advocate for it and even recruit others to adhere to their personal opinions. But as any child could probably figure out, super fast, you cannot be considered in harmony with a group you intend to try and force change or disagree with their core tenets. 

When it comes to membership in the Mormon faith where we hold such a bold conviction as having a prophet upon the earth, then this type of rebellion is easily perceived as not just fighting against the Church but God Himself. Yes, the majority of Mormons, like me, see it that clearly; I’ve spoken to many of them and most don’t see how any other idea can be justified.

With the age of the Internet, social media has provided the means for all types of advocacy like nothing before in the history of the world. This shouldn’t surprise us then that that which is adversarial to the work of God would find its greatest channel to influence through its power.

From what I've observed over the last few days it's become very apparent that large numbers of supposedly ignorant Mormons hearing these stories (some for the first time), meant to broadly influence the conversation, are rejecting them as representative of what mainstream Mormons are thinking and feeling -- and they're saying so. Though not through national media as ‘our’ thoughts are not nearly as sensational (thus marketable to consumers) but among one another, through blogs, forums, Facebook pages and various other social networking platforms. 

In the case of the recent calls for disciplinary action, few that I've discussed the decision to excommunicate Kate Kelly from the LDS Church with are surprised. However, this is not a judgment of her personally but rather a clear recognition of blatant apostate-acts easily discerned by covenant members of the Church who take seriously how they live their faith and keep sacred covenants.

One thing that has come across loud and clear is that Kelly does not reflect the sentiments of mainstream Mormon women in regard to female ordination, or share her feeling that her loss of membership has to do with asking faithful questions as a woman in the Church. Rather, most see her claim that all she's doing is faithfully, and innocently, petitioning the Prophet as has been done in the past, as disingenuous. 

However, and I can assure you, that these feelings have nothing to do with gloating (currently a widespread accusation) but rather come from a deep sense of relief that from what many have been silently witnessing over the last year or so is finally being called to accountability -- as most feel it should be. The majority of LDS women whom I’ve had contact with are mourning these necessary actions, but trust that the Church had no other choice as Kelly has consistently rejected all attempts by Church authorities to cease her actions contrary to the doctrine of the Church.

Again, Kelly’s actions have nothing to do with it being okay, or not, to ask questions within the Mormon faith. But this is the story that is being perpetuated by progressive members, and others, for reasons stated above. If you've been persuaded to believe that this is the heart of the matter I beg you to do a little more research about what apostasy is and why it is imperative that it be called out wherever it is found in the Church, in order to protect the integrity of established doctrine and the tender faith of members. 

Asking questions, even uncomfortable ones, does not define apostasy. 

These things cannot be taken lightly and this is why we are observing such polarizing opinions within the religion. And really, from a faith standpoint, we believe that in the “Last Days” many will be deceived, even the very elect (the brightest) and so to suggest that there are wolves among the sheep is far from far-fetched and/or unrighteous. Elder Richard C. Edgley taught:

“There are the so-called learned people who have let their intellect undermine their spiritual moorings and who would also attempt to lead the faithful away from those who are appointed by the Lord to lead. There are those who feel that our leaders are out of touch with the realities of the day. They would attempt to lead members by substituting their own knowledge for the revelations from God to His prophets. And unfortunately, there are those who would so follow. Christ warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15.)

Let us never forget, this Church was founded on one deep and very sincere question where no answer was currently found. To those pounding the key to suggest that faithful questioning within the LDS Church is not welcome that is a blatant falsehood. What is not welcome in the Church are all advocacies contrary to the doctrine found in Holy Scripture and that taught by those whom we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators.

This month Mormons commemorate the Martyrdom of our founding Prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., 170 years ago, June 27, 1844. His life was taken for what the answer to that one vital question revealed: the declaration of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is, in my opinion, an insult to many faithful members of the Church who have had their own disconcerting questions and like Joseph have taken them to the Lord in faith, to suggest such a false accusation against the Church.

Even with all of this, and with emotions flying high, as covenant members of the Church we are challenged to seek a higher response to these chaotic times, which I am sure will increase in frequency. We are being asked to have patience with one another; not to judge individuals but actions; and to show compassion and love for the "one" who has lost their way. The point is, that excommunication is a gate to a return to Christ and His people. It is a call to repent and to become one again with the body of the Saints. What it’s not is a permanent placement into outer darkness.

I had an interesting exchange with Kate Kelly only a few weeks ago – the first and only. Following a meeting that Mormon Women Stand had with LDS Church Public Affairs, she reached out to me through the MWS Facebook page. She extended an invitation for me to participate in a public panel with her, where we could discuss our differences in hopes of modeling a positive dialogue between two people who strongly disagree. I politely declined and let her know that I would not be having a dialogue with someone whose actions were contrary to the Church.

For me, how she goes about advocating her beliefs has never been about simple differences of belief or faithful questioning; it is out and out rebellion against God. Frankly, I want to be divided from everything about Ordain Women.

With that said, during our brief encounter I was direct in sharing with her how I feel about Ordain Women. But what happened next totally surprised me when I felt genuinely impressed to invite her to “Friend” me on Facebook. I found myself sincerely caring about her and desired to develop a friendship, privately, but not to debate our differences. Rather, I told her that I was offering my hand of friendship to bring her back into the fold because right now “you're heading in the wrong direction.” Sadly, I have yet to receive her request.

I think most of us have appreciated these inspired and timely words from Sister Bonnie Oscarson, when many of us are sorting out tender feelings with a sincere desire to act in ways pleasing to God.

“All of us as sisters in the gospel have the responsibility and privilege to support and nourish one another. We have all committed to be disciples of Jesus Christ and this discipleship should be at the heart of all that we do.”

May each one of us, as reminded, open our arms to those who are confused and struggling at this time, for whatever reasons the recent events have affected them and caused pain. The gospel of Jesus Christ is more than a bandage; it is the answer to mend all of our broken hearts. That we, as children of covenant, with power, will administer it among one another is my personal prayer.