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.
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 DisciplineMy 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.
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