Ordain Women Founder Kate Kelly Charged With Apostasy

At the initial launch of the Ordain Women movement (OW) I wrote a bold post that has followed me since, where I flat out called the organization's advocacy brazen and unprecedented:

Today's Mormon Feminists are bolder than ever, likely due to the support of liberal media outlets willing to exploit, at the drop of a lace hankie, the slightest negative tale to come across their inbox that could potentially convict what they perceive as the male dominant leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- in the sacred name of social justice and gender equality...

However, the most recent campaign is by far the most brazen of them all, and one that the majority of conservative and faithful members of the LDS Church will be shocked to find out (and honestly question the claims that are made) that these are, many of them, also active members of the Church... who have come together to question what they believe to be a history of withholding, and to publicly advocate for, ordination to the priesthood.

This is unprecedented: that individual female members unite online to organize a campaign against LDS Church leaders to lobby for priesthood ordination -- by utilizing the media as their advocates to both protect themselves and to put pressure on the Church in an attempt to force desired change.

Let me also point out that, contrary to some feeling that the desire for female ordination is nothing more than a faithful attempt to ask a difficult question, the focus of that post had very little to do with what OW are advocating for (not that I agree) but rather how an organized group of Mormon women (any group within the Church for that matter) planned to go about getting their demands met; not okay. 

For me personally, the issue with the OW sect has never been about members who may struggle with understanding the doctrine of the Church, question it, or might even disagree with parts of Mormonism; certainly some do, in private ways. Rather it's the ongoing, blatant disregard under the guise of faithful membership to advocate publicly and contrary to the official position/doctrine of the Church and its leaders whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. In my opinion, such actions do nothing for the building up of the kingdom of God and instead serve as an attempt to publicly shame the male leadership of the Church in hopes of submission and to create division among members. 

I wrote that post in March of 2013 and since then, sadly, not one of their organized actions have proven me wrong. Rather, the group under the leadership of it's Founder has pressed forward, disregarded and even ignored all requests from official LDS sources, at many levels, to cease their protocol of advocacy considered divisive and contrary to LDS doctrine. 

In fact, on Wednesday The New York Times reported that OW Founder, Kate Kelly, and Mormon Stories Founder, John Dehlin (also whose public actions are in opposition to the Church) in two separate and non-related letters, are both being summonsed by their local Mormon authorities for Church discipline on grounds of apostasy with the possibility of excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In response to the sudden flurry of media requests about LDS Church disciplinary actions the Mormon Newsroom posted this response:

"The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
"Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters. 
"Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church." 
See also: Church Discipline
My initial reaction to hearing this news was sadness. I have great compassion for anyone walking the road of apostasy and so I find this situation unsettling. With that said, I do see that necessary steps for Church discipline in both of these cases must be pursued and hopefully the process for both of these individuals' will be a course correction -- as is the hope for all who find themselves in these circumstances. Such times, are when I find myself particularly grateful for priesthood keys, relieving all of us from personal judgement and an opportunity to trust the Lord and those whom He has called. Church discipline when enacted has many options to ultimately bring a person to full repentance.

However, I feel this is a good opportunity for each of us to observe what modern-acts of apostasy look like and so that we can be more aware in the future of what to avoid -- or perhaps even turn away from, right now. We can do this, we must do this, and it is not unbecoming of a Christian, in the least, if done with the proper spirit.

My writing that post over a year ago had nothing to do with the individuals involved -- it was not personal then nor is it now. My heart goes out to both Sister Kelly and Brother Dehlin who have placed themselves in the public eye (they, sharing this information with media for personal reasons, as the Church is silent on all individual disciplinary cases and will remain so) causing the rest of us a need to discern this sad situation, which should have remained personal, while not making ourselves their judges. I am especially saddened for their families and for those who have felt their works to be good, as clearly they would not be facing disciplinary action if it were otherwise. To feel differently, is to potentially be walking the same road.

Correctly discerning what's going on will require each of us to gain a greater understanding of what is apostasy, keys of authority, and the blessings of Church discipline in order to restore a person to full-fellowship: the goal.

Remember that discipline, disciple and discipleship are closely related. Discipline is the process of course correcting one who has gone astray by their own choices and actions to reject or rebel against what is right and/or authority. Ultimately, discipline can only be enacted by the individual as it is solely an act of personal agency to turn the key of repentance.

Church discipline is a rescue effort made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and is part of the great, covenant work of salvation. It is not necessary for us, for any reason, to feel the need to rescue a brother or sister from the process lest we unwittingly become a stumbling block to their spiritual progress -- lacking faith in the Lord's Way of governing His people. We serve each other much better when we pray the Lord's will be done.

And to those who find themselves mourning not necessarily because personal apostasy is devastating, but rather because you are convinced that Church authorities are wrong about either one of these two individuals' needing to face Church discipline, you might want to reconsider that position. We stand by one another when we stand by the Savior. If we as covenant members sustain those whom the Lord has called to exercise priesthood keys, then it behooves us to stand by whatever decisions they come to, by the Spirit, on behalf of those whom they have a very personal stewardship and trust it to be the will of God.

Lastly, in response to comments I've read online and in particular in regard to Kate Kelly... Her facing Church discipline has nothing to do with a sincere desire for female ordination, even if it is contrary to doctrine, and in no way should this be viewed as a mourning time for women in the Church thinking that this is intended to squelch or discipline the asking of difficult questions, faithfully, by women in particular. Please consider this part of the above Church statement, which clarifies why a person may face disciplinary action, which has nothing to do with gender: "In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled." 

Church disciplinary courts and subsequent actions should be viewed as a positive, not only for the individual but also for the Church and its members. Elder M. Russell Ballard explains how the process is intended to be a cleansing:

When members need to have certain blessings withheld, the Lord’s object is to teach as well as to discipline. So probation, disfellowshipment, and excommunication, when they become necessary, are ideally accompanied by eventual reinstatement and restoration of blessings. 
I remember as a child occasionally coming unkempt to the dinner table. My mother wisely sent me to clean up and then return. My parents would have been pained if I had taken offense and had run off—and I would have been foolish to do so. In the same way, the servants of the Lord occasionally find that they must, in loving concern, send some of Heavenly Father’s children out the door so they can return clean once again. 
The Lord does not want us to “miss supper.” In fact, he has a great feast prepared for those who return clean and pure through the door. He is greatly saddened when anyone decides they prefer to be unclean and miss the meal, or when they find an excuse to take offense, or when they run away. He is pleased to extend the chance to start over. 
I’ve known a few rebellious people who disregard the commandments and are influenced by the evil one or by other rebellious people to transgress God’s laws. I’ve seen their distress and pain. I’ve also seen their joy when, humbled and fully repentant, they have returned to the Church and have had all their blessings restored.

May we all take this opportunity to understand these wonderful (though seeming painful parts of spiritual progression) doctrines and principles of the gospel intended to refine us as individuals and make us one with Christ.


Kathryn Skaggs

Deseret News: Two Mormon Activists Say they are Facing Church Discipline

Photo: Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, walks through the gate onto Temple Square to the LDS Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Saturday, April 5, 2014 to ask for entrance into the priesthood session of general conference. (Ravell Call, Deseret News archives)

LDS Resources on Church Discipline and Apostasy:

Elder M. Russell Ballard: A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings

Judges in Israel: Watching over the Church Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 406–411

Guide to the Scriptures - Apostasy LDS.org


  1. Thank you for your comments. I truly appreciate you standing up for the truth even though some individuals vilify you for it. The truth can be hard. You have shown compassion and thoughtfulness in your writing and I appreciate that as well.

  2. Very well written - thank you for sharing, you express my sentiments also. Thank you for sharing the perspective about what apostasy looks like and how it effects many that we come in contact with.

    Best wishes,


  3. I genuinely appreciate your perspective, Kathryn, in clearly stating the 'big picture' of what this recent attack on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encompasses. I especially liked how you convey that apostasy in modern times may not look like that seen in the past. In warning that the very elect would be deceived, I believe the Savior meant that I personally need to be in a place where the Holy Spirit is my guide. While that is a continuing challenge, Heavenly Father has given us guides, both scriptural and latter-day prophets, to help us all along the precarious path back to Him.

  4. I know there are those who will feel very uncomfortable with these people being called into a disciplinary hearing, but for me it give me comfort that they church has the courage to hold the line and push back against activists who put the 'wisdom' of the world ahead of the gospel.

  5. Beautifully written. You so clearly express my thoughts and I thank you. May we all withhold judgement from both the individuals involved AND the Church and stand with our Savior.

  6. One thing that seems to be missing from so many other articles I've seen about this, is that Church Discipline is NOT a punishment. It is the effort of a loving Father to correct a child's behavior AND to mitigate the consequences. When a person makes oaths and covenants to behave a certain way, when they break those, they suffer the consequences. Sometimes for the sake of our own souls, it is necessary to remove the requirement to live by the oaths and covenants to save us from ourselves. I doubt that I'm explaining it very well, but I remember my father explaining to me what was happening when a man that was a very close family friend went through this. When he was able to look at what he had done, he was able to come back, make those promises anew and regain all that he had thrown away for a time.

    I'm sincerely sorry for these people. They are making the worst decisions of their lives, but this situation will allow them the opportunity to see WHAT it is they are giving up, and how much they really want what they are exchanging their eternal birthright for. It isn't easy to admit you are wrong when you make the public part of your issues. I hope they choose not to go this way, but sometimes pride is pretty hard to overcome.

    I long ago decided where I stood on who I was going to follow. I don't know all things, and some things people advocate as an easier way to get to the same destination can sound awfully tempting, but I already made the decision on who was going to be guiding my actions so the ability to say no thanks is easy.

    Too many people have neglected to gain a testimony of the Gospel. They have become socially aligned instead of converted. Their ancestors may have pushed handcarts and followed wagons, they may have attended Primary, Sunday School and graduated from Seminary, but that doesn't make you converted. When I was a child, my parents insisted that I take my questions to the Lord for confirmation that the answers they had given me were true. I am so grateful for that today.

    1. Thank you, Patricia. This is such an important comment. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and personal insights on this issue. This is such difficult time for many in the Church who do not understand what apostasy is and/or the loving process of Church discipline to help one gone astray course correct. Prayers for many, so needed.

    2. I've always looked on these type of disciplinary actions as a form of covenant bankruptcy. The Lord never defaults on his end of the covenant. When we do in such major ways that our credit is destroyed and the consequences of our actions are such that to continue participating in the covenant would do more harm than good, we are given the opportunity to be released from that obligation, step back, and live according to laws of God that we can keep. You are only responsible for the choices you make and should someone choose to covenant to live according to a higher law and then can't keep up their end of the bargain, the opportunity to remove that covenant is offered as a mercy.

      Those who don't understand this, I fear, have a very limited understanding of what the Atonement truly is and the role Christ plays in our Heavenly Father's plan. Lucifer wasn't thrown out of heaven because God was angry with him but because he refused to sustain the plan presented and demanded that the Heavenly Father do what he (Lucifer) wanted or else. That's what apostasy is: a refusal to sustain the Lord by demanding that God change his mind and do what you want Him to do and getting others to go along with you. I see so many parallels in what this movement is doing and what I have imagined the Council in Heaven to be like.

    3. Emily Tree, what you have written here is brilliant. Such a great explanation of church disciplinary action and likening OW to the war in heaven. Makes so much sense.

  7. Thank you for your comments, your words are also my words.

    1. I agree with you. It is also forgotten by many that there are more LDS outside the USA than inside now. I have not met any women in South Africa who support or agree with this group. The Lord's house is a house of order. A minority cannot speak for the rest of us. We trust the Bretheren to guide us. I have never felt inferior to a Priesthood holder. We are equal if not even more blessed being women.

  8. The issue here is this "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." Had these people counseled with their leaders as we are all encouraged to do when we have questions, and as they were repeatedly invited to do, the problem would not have arisen. Instead they chose to take their beliefs, opinions, and questions into the public arena and actively began teaching them.

  9. Very well written. It is actually M. Russell Ballard. I think you need to fix that. But, otherwise, great blog.

  10. Except you missed the part where both stake presidents told Kate and John that THEY would be making it public. Kate and John had little choice, it would have been done anyway.

    And that's just one of your errors in this post.

    1. I would love to see a source for that information, as I have looked and can't find either a legitimate or non-legitimate one.

    2. All that will be made public are the results of the disciplinary council, as is the case where the offenses have been public and there is risk that others are being led astray. Announcements of this type are generally made in local congregations, but they are public and will be generally known when they are made. Proceedings are always confidential, unless those receiving discipline decide to release information. Often this type of info is very one sided.

    3. Kate shared that information about her stake president in an fMH podcast interview. Google will show you where it is easily enough.

  11. THANK YOU for putting my feelings into such eloquent words.

  12. Sadly, there are plenty of people judging who say it is not their place to judge. Interesting paradox. It is a well known principle that those who feel inclined to judge are the most fearful of the consequences of judgements themselves. sayin. .

  13. Kathryn, thank you so much for another amazing blog. A week ago I got to listen to Elder Russel M Nelson speak at a fireside for the YSA in our area and he said the days of being a comfortable Christian are gone, that if we aren't being persecuted we aren't being Christian enough, he also said that we need to defend the Savior, our prophets and leaders. Pertaining to the common idea of marriage equality he said, "When living in sin becomes legal, it becomes illegal to preach against it." I see how that pertains in this situation, though it is not illegal to stand with the Savior, it is unpopular in the worlds eyes and unfortunately, in the eyes of some members of the church. We have been warned that even the most faithful will be led astray in the last days, and this is evidence of that. It's scary how easily one person can persuade so many to rebel under the guise of simply asking innocent questions.

  14. Anna Mooy, it is not our place to judge individuals. That is reserved for the Judge in Israel, for only God knows what is in a person's heart. However, we are told to judge actions and behaviors, and choose correct things. While I cannot determine the cases for Kate or John, I can state that many of the behaviors have long been outside Church standards.
    I have not met anyone gleeful over these councils. I have seen many who are not surprised by the events, precisely because they note the behaviors contradict things the Church has long warned us about. The publicity that OW and Mormon Stories have gotten in attacking the Church are very reminiscent of Sonia Johnson's excommunication, for example. Patterns emerge and the standards have not changed regarding where one should stand.

  15. Thank you for your blog. It is nice to read somebody who has an opposite side to the mainstream media's histrionics and misrepresentation. I hope Kelly isn't excommunicated, but I hope she also turns away from this course she's on.

  16. I understand struggling to understand a particular point of doctrine. What I don't understand is claiming to be a faithful member of a church whose key principles you adamently reject.

  17. As someone who has been ex-communicated for many years I would like to put forward a couple of thoughts. At the time of my excommunication it was put to me that I should understand it not as an act of punishment, but rather as an act of love. As a member of the church one makes covenants with God, the breaking of which can bring additional condemnation upon your head. To be freed from those covenants doesn't change the nature of the wrong-doing that has brought you into conflict in the first place, but it does removed the additional weight of failing to keep those covenants and promises. It might be viewed in the context of a legal contract, where the offended party agrees to simply void the contract instead of suing you for breach of promise. I was able to accept that viewpoint then and I still believe it many years later despite the fact that I have not as yet returned. I have never had any animosity towards the church for the action taken, and have always been make to feel that I would be welcomed back.
    The other thought is one my wife expressed many times, and I hope I am remembering it correctly. She pointed out that the origin of the word 'disipline', that is, the root words from which it was taken, meant " teaching ", not " punishment ". The fact that a child might view the with-holding of priviliges and benefits for unaccepted behavior as severe punishment, does not mean that it isn't a reasonable consequence, especially if they have been given warnings, corrective instruction, and the opertunity to alter behavior first. When a properly motivated parent uses appropriate discipline to teach correct principle, it is an expression of love.

  18. Thank you for this post -- I think the decision ultimately made was not surprising, but the outcome is sad nonetheless. I knew Kate Kelly many years ago. Although I do not agree with the movement she started, I feel compassion (without condoning). I've penned a few of my thoughts here: http://latterdayjane.com/2014/06/24/a-snapshot-of-kate-kelly/

  19. ......what is greater than the power of god through the priesthood?
    the power of god without the priesthood...which every person on earth has access to as a child of god.
    the priesthood does not magnify the power of god, but serves only the religion in which it is established...without organized religion we are all equal, as jesus taught, our royal inheritance is inherent, unavoidable, ours to magnify, nurture, realize, through conscious awareness...go figure...so simple...but so undermining to those who need their pedestals and patriarchal status

    1. There is no power of God without the Priesthood and vice-a-versa; it is one and the same. Access to God's Priesthood Power comes through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ and through His chosen servants called to lead His living Church here upon the earth: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  20. The reality is that the Mormon Church is extremely tactical in its beliefs and from a social and spiritual standing you are either following those prescriptive beliefs or not. You can read this attitude in the comments or blogs from members of the church relating to these stories. Faithful members paint a black and white picture. As a result of such a defined belief system, the concept of free thought let alone any deviation from the prescribed beliefs is seen as a rejection of God’s teachings. Think about it this way. If you are a faithful member of the Mormon Church, you have been given guidance from modern prophets and apostles, which are treated like scripture, on every major and minor social, sexual and life issue conceivable. The length of your skirt or amount of skin you expose on your shoulders, how old you should be when you start dating, how passionate your first kiss should be, what to do if you feel the urge to masturbate, what music to listen too, what clothes to wear, how to feel about abortion, gay marriage, what movies you can watch, what food you eat, how to feel about tattoos and piercings, etc, etc.
    The guidance is even more extreme for those who attend church colleges. What rooms of your home you are allowed to be while with someone from the opposite sex, how your facial hair is groomed and the list goes on and on. The Mormons churches beliefs don’t provide much room for interpretation or individual judgment for pretty much every social, sexual or religious belief conceivable. The church goes as far to teach its members methods on how to identify, control and eliminate thoughts that might be contrary to any of these prescribed beliefs. It discourages people from asking questions about the churches past or leadership decisions. It labels any form of free thought as dangerous.
    Due to the very tactical nature of the Mormon doctrine, free thought is not encouraged or even tolerated. What ends up happening is that Mormons are forced to accept the ideas as scripture or face excommunication or worse social isolation. Therefore, the only acceptable tolerance is for those thoughts that get even more prescriptive on beliefs. For example, I know we should not drink coffee but we also chose to not drink certain sodas as well. The only room for interpretation is an interpretation that is more extreme then the beliefs already outlined.
    This type of prescriptive belief system extends to all aspect of life. A woman’s role in society, her home and family and especially the church are all defined. The problem the church is having and while it has made national news, is that the internet has fundamentally changed the world we live in and the perception of that world. For the first time in history, anyone with an internet connection can do all sorts of research, analysis and social investigation on any topic imaginable. For that reason, people have become more informed and more independent in thought. There is now light shed on every topic. Access to data, research studies and people through social media allow for anyone to better understand all sides of an issue while having access to enough information to form their own opinions.
    This model of open and easy access to information to encourage education and free thinking is a complete contradiction to Mormon culture. The resistance and out right dismissal of people who question a Mormon doctrine is not tolerated. The church has not responded to questions on its history or doctrine but rather choses to silently isolate those who ask questions, raise concerns or demand an explanation.
    The issue therefore is not about should women have the priesthood or Native American DNA, or gay marriage or any specific topic but rather the issue is about how the church will deal with people who publicly state they have their own beliefs and would prefer something more than an all or nothing option of inclusion.

  21. I love this post- I don't think anyone who is close to the spirit or has an understanding of the basic principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS could fall away so easily. It's true what makes this case unique is that these people profess to be faithful members of the church, the classic "wolves in sheep's clothing". The Church is God-led and faith-based. When people petition aggressively and demand change, it's evident they don't understand this. If it were possible to boss God around, it would cease being a God-led, and faith based church, which is not mormonism at all.

  22. Thank you so much for posting this and for sharing your perspective on things! I agree and stand with the Church on their decision. It saddens me, but reading through the news articles and watching her interview on CNN only strengthens my belief it had to be done because it seems that Kelly and those who stand with her have lost their eternal perspective. They seem to have forgotten that the Lord leads the Church and that things come to pass in His time, not ours. Our core beliefs and principles help us understand that eternal perspective. When things happen on this earth that I don't have a full understanding i.e. 9/11, a wayward family member, a tragic accident I say my prayers and have faith that these are experiences I need to go through on Earth, but that the lesson and understanding will come to me in the Eternities. And as another commenter mentioned, excommunication is an act of love not punishment. I truly believe that, especially when s/he explained it the way s/he did.

    I pray that they will remember the eternal perspective and the core beliefs of the Church sooner than later. Thank you again for your post and your blog!

  23. I have felt very distressed at all of the negative media and the misconceptions about women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I feel that is having a very negative affect on the hastening of the work that is near and dear to my heart. I woke up Thursday morning and thought of something I can do... I have computer degree and over the past few days have put up a website. Through ad words, the goal is to have this site come up with any searches about the current negative media the church is receiving..
    The website has been up approximately 24 hours. It's purpose is to be positive and give the majority perspective on the priesthood through simple LDS woman profiles - How is being a Mormon woman empowering and how does the priesthood bless your life. Just starting this 5 days ago and barely getting it up 1 day ago means there are only a few profiles so far. I am looking for more from like minded woman throughout the church. www.realmormonwomen.com Thanks for your post.

  24. I am an outsider but find this case interesting on many levels.

    To Kate Kelly I say:

    -Shouldn't the majority of Mormon women get decide whether or not they choose to worship in a patriarchal run church? You don't agree with them but Pew research in 2011 says 83% of Mormons don't want to give women the priesthood. How is this different than trying to dissuade consenting gay adults who choose to get married from doing so. Sure, you may disagree with it morally, but isn't it their choice in a free country to live as they see fit pursue happiness as they define it ( as long as it doesn't infringe on others)?

    To the LDS church I say:

    -You kicked someone out for voicing and promoting a different opinion than yours? Really? That seems very insecure and medieval. It is your right to worship as you choose sure and technically I guess you can kick out who you want but what would Jesus do? Last I checked he hung out with the harlots and sinners and encouraged people not to cast stones at people who blatantly defied his teachings. Rationalize it how you want but excommunication is casting a stone to this outsiders opinion. Maybe a little tolerance could make you a better organization and community of Christians with (gasp) diverse opinions.

  25. A nicely balanced discussion of the nature of this latest misconception that public lobbying has a role in the government of the Lord's church. The Kingdom of God on the earth is a theocracy, not a democracy. We are all of us attempting to live as closely to revealed celestial law as possible during mortality by developing a Christ-like nature. A testimony that the Lord directs this church, through his authorised servants is essential for all its citizens to know. With this testimony there are no disputations among us but only peace. Without this testimony there is Kate Kelly et al. I am patient and content in that testimony to wait upon the Lord for the further light and knowledge that has been promised and which will come through his servants, in the Lord's own due time - not ours.

  26. I applaud you for standing strong in truth. -Lisa in Seattle


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