Update: LDS Church addresses unauthorized actions, efforts to change church doctine

The spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jessica Moody, is responding to backlash after the church recently made threats to excommunicate members.

Moody said, “What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.”

More: LDS blogger and podcaster faces church discipline

Moody sent out this response:

Church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue, and recognize that today it’s how we communicate and discuss ideas with one another. Our whole Church was founded on the basis of sincere questions asked by a 14-year-old boy. Having questions and seeking answers is normal. Within those earnest questions may lie the seeds of faith.
The scriptures are full of examples of how to receive answers to our questions—to find truth and align our will with God’s—and that process includes studying, praying, learning and discussing Church doctrines. Millions of people do this throughout their lives. How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking. What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion, and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.
At the heart of the conversation are matters of faith and doctrine. We believe these doctrines are given to us by God in simple ways: through scripture and through living prophets and apostles. If our personal goals go beyond what has been provided from those sources, we must ask ourselves whether we are we trying to change His Church to match our own perspective.
As a Church, we’ve been looking for several years on what we can improve and change—cultural elements that are not tied to doctrine. We’ve had and will continue to have dozens of meaningful, helpful conversations with a variety of voices and perspectives about cultural changes. From my perspective, it’s a very exciting time to be a member!
It would be completely inappropriate for me to comment on any of the individual cases you’ve heard about recently, as those are personal matters dealt with at a local level. But I can provide some principles. In dealing with all of these issues and questions, a local lay leader is the one who determines how they apply to those he serves. If he becomes troubled by a member’s actions, he can rely on his own spiritual insights, personal prayer, guidance from handbooks and his training to determine how best to address the member’s circumstances. For instance, their standard procedural handbook says: “Local presiding officers should not expect General Authorities to tell them how to decide difficult matters. Decisions on Church discipline are within the discretion and authority of local presiding officers as they prayerfully seek guidance from the Lord.”

SALT LAKE CITY – The founder of Ordain Women, a group of individuals advocating for changes to what they call gender inequality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says she is facing the possibility of excommunication from the LDS Church and was told of a disciplinary council.

According to a post on ordainwomen.org, Founder Kate Kelly said she was told on June 8 that there is a disciplinary council scheduled to be held in the LDS Church stake in the Washington D.C. area where she used to live. Kelly has been the face of an effort that wants the LDS Church to ordain women to the church’s priesthood, among other things. In 2014 and 2013, Kelly led a group of women who were seeking entry to the male-only session of the LDS Church’s semi-annual General Conference.

“To think that Mormonism is no longer going to be a part of my life or I am no longer welcome in my community, my faith community, it’s devastating,” Kelly told FOX 13 News.

The New York Times reports that Kelly is not the only activist to be notified by LDS Church officials that they are facing discipline this week. John P. Dehlin, founder of the website “Mormon Stories”, told the New York Times he received a letter calling on him to resign from the LDS Church or face a disciplinary council.

Kelly posted a letter she said came from LDS Church officials, and the letter states: “The bishopric is considering formal disciplinary action on your behalf, including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, on the grounds of apostasy.”

The full letter is available as a PDF at this link, and the letter states that Kelly is invited to attend the disciplinary council in person or send a written statement. Kelly states in the posting that she has relocated to Utah and cannot return for the event, and she said she was surprised by the letter she received. She said she thinks it is unfair to hold the council so far away from where she now resides.

She stated: “I was open and honest with my bishop from the day we launched ordainwomen.org on March 17, 2013. I communicated with him each and every time Ordain Women did an action and asked that he come to me if he had any questions. While I was living in his ward, he never once personally called me in to meet with him. Nor did he email or call me with any questions regarding Ordain Women. Three weeks after I had moved out of his ward, and he sent me this letter.  Convening a council in my absence, after I have moved, is both cowardly and unchristlike.”

Kelly told FOX 13 News she was put on formal probation prior to the notice regarding the disciplinary council. She said she believes she only sought to share the truth.

“I never said anything bad about church leaders,” she said. “I never preached any doctrine, let alone false doctrine, I just attributed what was a true fact, a factual assertion, that men and women are not equal in our church. That’s not a sin; that’s just telling the truth.”

The letter states that the council is tentatively scheduled for June 22 at 7 p.m. ET at the Oakton Virginia Stake Center and Bishop Mark M. Harrison said in the letter, “I am willing to work with you to make a reasonable adjustment in the scheduled date and time of the council.”

Kelly called excommunication an action akin to “spiritual death” for members of the LDS Church, and she said she is saddened by the action. Click here to read her entire post.

Kimberly Baptista, public relations director of Ordain Women, stated in an email to FOX 13 News that they have two actions in response. The first is that they are asking supporters to submit a letter describing, “how the group has improved their relationships with the Church or strengthened their testimonies. Representatives from Ordain Women will deliver these letters to the Church Office Building and will also send them to the men who will sit in judgment of Kelly at her trial.” The letters are being collected here.

The group is also planning to hold a candlelight vigil on June 22 at 5 p.m. MT, the same time as the disciplinary council. The vigil will be held outside the LDS Church Office Building, 100 S. State Street in Salt Lake City, and those who gather will do so to show their support of Kelly.

LDS Church Spokeswoman Kristen Howey issued the following statement on behalf of the LDS Church in response to media inquiries about this issue.

“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.”

Baptista stated in her email that disciplinary councils are conducted only by male leaders and that means Kelly will be questioned only by males.

She also outlined the possible consequences: “The possible consequences of these courts are disfellowshipment or excommunication from the Church. Members who are disfellowshipped may not pray in meetings, give talks, hold callings, receive temple recommends, sustain Church officers, or partake of the sacrament. They are encouraged to continue paying tithing, however. Excommunication is the most extreme action that may be taken. Those who are excommunicated are no longer considered members of the Church, are denied all privileges related to membership, and must be rebaptized to regain those privileges.”

The LDS Church also provided a link to an article on Mormonnewsroom.com titled “Church Discipline” that offers details about the process.

 

104 comments

  • Lauren

    Kelly clearly does not understand this isn’t a punishment and it’s not being forced on her. She can change and keep her standing in the church. It’s a simple choice between the church or her precious activist group. I guess her ordain women movement is more important than all the blessings and covenants she has made in the church. Too bad

    • Jeff

      What? No empathy for the fact she’d have to arrange for a hotel, car rental and a plane ticket just to show up for her court? You really feel she’s been fairly dealt with when her bishop could have brought her in for a court at any time in the last couple of years? Her crime is irrelevant. You’re so focused on group loyalty that you’re turning a blind eye to real abuse.

      • Jim Chapman

        Jeff, she didn’t seem to have a problem with those arrangements when she made her trips in support of her activist group. There are procedures and the timing of her move in relation to those procedures is not the fault of the church. You seem to be wanting to see abuse where there is none. By the way, the correct term is “council” not court. The proceedings in no way, shape or form resemble a court. There is no hate or anger involved (at least not on the part of the authorities). There is no condescending “Repent or else!”. I wish more people could see what actually goes on in these councils (however I fully support keeping them confidential…something Kelly has clearly eschewed). They are some of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever been through. You may find this hard to believe, but they are done from a spirit of love with the intent of helping the individual get back on the path. How they go from there, is up to the individual. I’ve seen people come into these defiant and then at the end were exchanging hugs and tears with us and then they went on to be strong members with no further issues. That is always the desired end result and we are always saddened when it is not the result.

  • Lauren

    A candlelight vigil?! Oh gosh you can’t be serious haha she must have a lot of worshippers, uh I mean, supporters.

    • jelwzzz

      Well doctor scott thanks for weighing in with your amazing and nationally renowned expertise….
      Another donated brain to the museum of natural stupidity.

      • Cartman

        Body language aside, it’s pretty obvious that she’s far more interested in making a scene. People like her can be found everywhere. It’s all about THEM. If people don’t pay enough attention, they whine louder.

      • frgough

        Reading her statement where she basically told her bishop he was free to come to her with any questions he had pretty much confirmed my suspicions that this woman is really, really, really full of herself.

  • LB

    If Kate’s membership was the most important thing in the world to her, she would shut down the ordain women website immediately and stop spreading lies. She said that she is only speaking the truth, that there is inequality in the church. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The church teaches that men and women are equals. Just because men have the priesthood doesn’t make them better or more important than women. And for someone who is “devastated” over possible excommunication, the fact that she has no desire to attend the disciplinary counsel which could excommunicate her speaks volumes. I highly doubt with her being a lawyer that she can’t afford to get over to WA. To me, this is more political than it is religious. It’s too bad that she’s leading some women down the road to apostasy. If she wasn’t, the church would not take a stance to excommunicate her.

    It’s also sad that she falsely claims that there is is no doctrine stating that women can’t have the priesthood. Dallin H. Oaks stated recently, “The Lord has directed that ONLY MEN WILL BE ORDAINED to offices in the priesthood.” Elder James E. Talmage stated, “It is not given to woman to exercise the authority of the Priesthood independently; nevertheless, . . . woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood.”

    M Russell Ballard gave an amazing talk in August 2013 addressing women and the priesthood. He quotes many apostles and prophets in his talk. ( http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=2133 ) For example he states: Why are men ordained to priesthood offices and not women? President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that it was the Lord, not man, “who designated that men in His Church should hold the priesthood” and that it was also the Lord who endowed women with “capabilities to round out this great and marvelous organization, which is the Church and kingdom of God” (“Women of the Church,” Ensign, November 1996, 70).

    And finally, what about the truth in the primary song, Follow the Prophet, “Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet. Don’t go astray. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet. He knows the way.” For someone who claims that they are a faithful member, she should be following the counsel of the prophet because he is God’s mouthpiece on earth.

  • Cartman

    The Stake President was wrong. There is no rule against pants suits in the LDS Church. He was speaking from his personal bias. That’s HIS problem, not yours. But sometimes you have to humor people even when they’re wrong.

    Remember: Always ask yourself, “Is this the hill I want to die on?”

  • joseph

    if you don’t believe in Mormon teachings then join another church. many have and many will still leave.

  • Marjorie

    When kelly can realize her divine nature is to not be ordained I am sure the church will let her back in… women dont need the priesthood.

  • Elise

    I don’t understand. If she disagrees soo strongly about who is ordained to the priesthood, why has she not joined with another religion? Or started a new one? Why does she claim to love a religion she so strongly disagrees with? she is a human Rights lawyer and claims this is a human Rights issue. What about the rights of religious freedom? The LDS church is certainly not infringing on any human rights. They are simply using their constitutional right to believe and worship how they see fit, and if she disagrees with how they do things, then it is her right to move on and worship how she sees fit. Simple as that. I don’t understand why or how this has become such a huge issue for a few of the women who belong to the LDS church.

  • mimi

    If she loves the church so much then why do we only hear her gripes about it? Why doesn’t she bear her testimony of what she believes is true about the church instead of just what she wants to change about it?

  • Trav

    I can honestly say that ever since I made the decision to leave that Brain Washing CULT my life has been AMAZING best decision that i could have ever made! I say get out, get out while you still can there is an entire world out there waiting for you!

  • Just an opinion

    Seems that the church is in fact saying, if you don’t agree with us, shut your mouth or we will kick you out..yep…true cult behaviour when one can’t think with their own mind and openly express their thoughts. Do your research folks!! Jesus wish was that his church was carried on by a WOMAN, not Paul….

    • Cartman

      Name one religion that won’t kick you out for publicly preaching against its basic doctrines.

      When you fail, I’ll name a few that will saw your head off and put the video on the internet.

  • Trish Ramirez

    However, this church is not above recruiting its membership to try to change secular legislation despite enjoying tax-exempt status. I thought that once church’s started meddling in politics they were skating on a thin line that could result in their tax-exempt status being revoked?

    Not to mention that the church has a long and storied history of CAVING to government and social pressure in order to achieve good PR – like ordaining African Americans, abolishing the Principle of Plural Marriage and removing the blood atonement wording from their temple ceremonies because word had reached the outside world that they may be a threat to secular governing bodies.

    Of course, when this church does opt to make changes to their policy, they do so under the guise of ‘revelation from god’ – which is more like a focus group of bitter old men who decide they have to change or face potential loss of revenue within this money-making machine.

    Either way, as corrupt as this organization has repeatedly proven itself to be, it is still a church. No one is forcing anyone to be a member of any church or religious organization that they don’t want to affiliate with. If you are unhappy with your church or have come to the determination that its teachings are false, then the thing to do is take your afterlife business elsewhere and leave the rest of the brainwashed congregants to go about their blind following – unless of course you are less concerned about changing the organization than you are about waking up its members to the fact that they are being oppressed and lied to, in which case, more power to you.

    • Cartman

      All religions strongly affect the politics of their memberships. Your real issue is not with the LDS Church, but with the fact that Mormons get to vote. And you wouldn’t have THAT issue if they voted the way YOU wanted them to.

      We live in a democracy. Sorry.

      • Trish Ramirez

        I have no problem with mormons voting. I have a problem with them voting based upon the suggestions of their clergy rather than using their own brains to evaluate issues and make decisions. This church has a history of using its members for political purposes. That was one of the biggest reasons they wanted them out of Illinois – they were swaying legislation to fit their “doctrine” and voting as a herd. Oh, and Joseph Smith couldn’t keep his pants on.

  • laytonian

    The anti-Kelly comments above are SO MUCH LIKE the comments we all heard before 1978, when black males were admitted to the Priesthood.

    • missy

      However, the issue was that if God’s work was to bring man closer to God… and being married in the temple was the final step which no black person could do since men must have the Priesthood to have access to marriage blessings in the Temple…there was a serious inconsistency in doctrine and Godly promises which were consistently declared to be for all mankind. There’s no loss for women, they don’t miss out on temple blessings as black people once did. It’s an entirely different matter.  This isn’t a doctrinal inconsistency.

  • JC

    If you don’t agree with the doctrine of your church, leave. Nobody is forcing you to remain. If it means that much to you, start your own church and do whatever you want. Don’t try to force your ideas on the other members of the religion.

  • Maryann

    One of the things that troubles me most about Kelly and her followers is their consistent dishonesty. They have been given crystal clear answers to their questions—-they just don’t like the answers they’re getting. Their continued demands for the answers they want, and running to the press crying “poor me”, is an insult to every faithful Mormon woman. They have already ostracized themselves—the church will only formalize the choice these women have already made.

  • Oscar Aguilar

    The letter notification does have a writing on it that is standard. Does not mean that something is already decided. The disciplinary courts are done in love for those who have chosen different paths of what the Lord has established. As soon as we are in direct opposition of what the Lord has said by Him or His servants, then we are in apostasy. Besides, it is she who decided to make this notification public, in other words, another way to show her proud and opposition behavior to the Lord’s Church and His servants. She can not manipulate the divine process of love for those whose errands are deviated.

  • Tim

    At least we don’t do what Moses did. In the 16th chapter of Moses a bunch of men saught to gain the priesthood, but at the time only the sons of Aaron could receive it (because the prophet said so.) Well What happened is because they were in open rebellion Moses asked the Lord to open the earth and the 250 rebels were eaten and the rest of the family was burnt by fire from heaven. So, the modern church is still lenient

  • Mary Bradley

    I just dont understand this lady or the women in her group. I am an active member of the church and have been my entire life. Not now or ever have I wanted to hold the preiesthood. As a women in this amazing church we have our own blessing and callings and responsibilities that come with being a women. I feel strongly that women in the church are looked up to, valued, charished, depended on and most of all equal to the men. We may not have the priesthood but we do not need it. We are truly blessed to be women of this church. I truly hope the women who are in this group ponder and pray and remember their worth and how much their familys look upon them and need them to be strong faithful members of the church.

  • Ekadasi Newton

    are we all equal? of course! are we all different? definitely! Am i able to bring life into the world? i can wish, but no amount of wishing will change the fact that i cannot. only my wife can do that. i can help make life and raise my children up properly in the gospel. my wife has a gift given to her in the pre-mortal life and that is her god given right since birth. i may be ordained to the office of elder now but i had to WORK for it. the opportunity was always there but it was never my right to just have it. i had to prove myself worthy. motherhood is greatest kind of godliness there is.

  • Terry

    If you believe that the Priesthood of the Church is ordained by God and ask that the blessings be given to women, good for you for asking. But, if the Prophet and Apostles take it to the Lord in prayer and you are denied the request, and yet you persist and go so far as to insist, then what exactly do you want? Do you want the Prophet to allow the ordination without the blessing from God? What do you think that would get you? The authority to act in God’s name does not come from the person doing the ordination. Neither does it come for the person who authorized it in the first place. The authority comes from God. The same God who said no in the first place. So, what, He says, OK. Voila, now you have the authority? It does not work that way. As with any ordination or calling in the Church, the calling comes from God. Now, on the other hand, if you don’t believe that the Prophet has the authority to speak for God, then why are you a member of a church that was founded on those principles? And, if you don’t believe that the authority comes from God, then what do you expect to gain from the ordination?

  • frgough

    The church didn’t “change its mind” on any of those issues. The basic doctrine in all those instances did not change (plural marriage only when specifically commanded, otherwise not; restricted priesthood only given to bloodlines/individuals set by the Lord according to a set time or circumstance).

  • Common Sense in AZ

    The Prophet is NOT required to petition the Lord for each and every request someone in the Church membership asks. And likewise, it is NOT a requirement that he inform everyone of the items he is praying about regarding doctrines or day-to-day concerns of the Church. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece to the Church and to the world. So… let’s just say that He did INDEED receive an answer from the Lord about ordain in women….and let’s just say that the answer is NO. Would Ms.Kelly be happy with that answer? What if the Lord doesn’t ever want women to hold the Priesthood in this earth’s existence…and let’s say that the Prophet announced this. Do you think this Sister Kelly would be happy with that? It is NOT the Prophet running the show…it’s the Savior, Jesus Christmas who is the Head of the Church. If she does want to listen to the Lord through the Brethren, it is her choice. But that is HER decision. She obviously doesn’t want to hear anything other than her own desire. That’s how I can determine her real motives. If she truly believed in the tenants of this Church, she would have understood this long ago. I question her ulterior motives here.

  • Jana

    I had the same thought. I think there is definitely part of the story being left out. Why didn’t she transfer her records?

  • Rachel

    She did not have any idea that this action was in the works. She did tell her bishop, and tell her new bishop in her UT ward to transfer her records, but the Stake President in that area of VA refused to allow the transfer. And yes, she is in UT in transition for a couple of months. Her husband got a job in Kenya.

  • Bob

    It doesn’t look like she has a new bishop Rachel. She was given a 2 week notice to meet with her current home ward bishop. A round trip ticket from her temporary residence here in Utah would be less than $500.00. Obviously she has the money or can get it from her OrdainWomen organization to make the trip.

    Why would she want to spoil a good thing by attending a confidential disciplinary council where there are no cheering crowds waving banners?

  • StakeClerkGuy

    Record transfers should be blocked when there is a pending church disciplinary council. It sounds like that’s what happened here based on the various comments people have made.

  • stephen

    Women to not hold the priesthood in the temple, they are authorized to give blessings to women for the endowment process, under the direction and authority of the temple president. They do not hold the priesthood. Please stop spreading false information.

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