Recent events in the past month have brought up some old feelings in the public opinion on Mormonism. Two high profile figures, Kate Kelly (the Ordain Women movement) and John Dehlin (Mormon stories website) are having church discipline administered to them and it’s making headlines. Since the so-called September Six there has not been such a high profile example of church discipline.
I read an article on Buzzfeed that declared the Mormon moment was now officially over. The article talks about how the church was having great successes in the PR department, finally showing how progressive and diverse we are. But now? “excommunicating thought leaders like Kelly and Dehlin will mean getting rid of some of the people who have made Mormonism interesting…Mormonism suddenly seems less cool and diverse…Both Kelly and Delhin told BuzzFeed Wednesday that the actions against them seem designed to send a message that questioning will not be tolerated by the church. ”
This all assumes, of course, that the objective of the church is to become popular in the eyes of the world. Why else would the church be trying so hard if we weren’t trying to fit in as a respectable world religion? The only problem is that no one at the head of the church has ever said that this is our goal. Not a prophet, not a scripture, not Jesus Christ. In fact, here’s what has been said:
“If you judge your actions and the standards of the Church on the basis of where the world is and where it’s going, you will find that you are not where you should be.” Elder Robert D Hales, April 2011
“The effect of God’s commandments and laws is not changed to accommodate popular behavior or desires.” Elder Dallin H Oaks, October 2009
“Unfortunately, messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently, …As [the prophet Abinadi] said to King Noah: “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. … Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” or, we might add, provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded, and elderly.” Elder Jeffrey R Holland, April 2014
In other words, we aren’t trying to be popular to the world, we are trying to help the Savior in His work to save the world. So why do we expend so many resources in the PR department? Well that’s simple, so we can help people come unto Christ by dispelling some of the false ideas they may have about members of His church. We are not interested, however, in portraying the false idea that sin is justified or that we accept the premises of the world that are out of harmony with the doctrine restored through prophets of God.
Which brings us to the topic at hand. What did Kate Kelly do that was worthy of Church discipline? (I’m not acquainted enough with John Dehlin to comment on his circumstance. I’m sure you could google him. The same principles might apply.) First of all I whole heartedly reject the notion being perpetuated by the media and on social networks that this means no one can ever ask questions. As a naturally inquisitive guy, I ask a lot of questions, especially along the lines Kelly has been proposing. In fact I’m at least grateful to her movement for helping me do that. We are commanded in the scriptures “to ask and he shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” So I couldn’t disagree more with this accusation that the church disciplines question askers. I dare say there isn’t an organization on Earth that is set up to invite the asking of questions as the restored church does.
So then what was it that got Kate Kelly disciplined? (The real answer is “I don’t know” since her local church leaders will keep confidences and we will only hear Kelly’s side of the story if we hear it all.) But there are a couple of scriptural principles that apply:
4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his [the prophets] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.
35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
28 Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day.
29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.
1. We are to accept the words of the prophets as if from God, and if we do the gates of Hell will not prevail against us.
2. Those who seek to become a law unto themselves cannot be sanctified by God’s law.
3. When a person refuses to follow prophetic counsel, the Lord authorizes His leaders to blot their names off the records of the church.
There is a difference between honestly asking questions and questioning the answers already being given. And many people are even allowed to remain in full membership when they do that. In my opinion, once the ordain women movement organized, they began to be a law unto themselves. Once they marched, they demonstrated they were at odds with prophets, (especially the second time when they were asked specifically not to), and when they started producing discussions, they were beginning a new religious organization. They are free to do all these things, of course, but not as members of this church. Any organization has the right to defend its borders, and when another organization seeks to come in and change fundamental things, especially when this organization arises from within, it has a right to declare that organization is not a part of them.
Those sympathetic to the ordain woman movement have a decision to make now. Many more questions are now being raised, and that’s ok. Ask questions, seek answers, and even question those answers if you want to. But if you start your own church within the church, don’t be surprised when the Lord doesn’t allow you dual citizenship.