SALT LAKE CITY — Kate Kelly is usually working away online to spread her movement Ordainwomen.org, but on Friday she was typing up a much different message to share.
“I have been asking questions and speaking my mind since I was knee-high,” Kelly said.
She spent much of the afternoon drafting the letter she will be sending as her defense at a disciplinary hearing this weekend, where she’s facing excommunication from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the grounds of apostasy. Because the hearing is being held in Washington D.C., she cannot attend in person.
“Being invited to the disciplinary council is like being invited to your own funeral,” Kelly said. “And reading that letter is like reading your own obituary. It’s extremely painful and just something that you can’t ever anticipate or prepare yourself for.”
The disciplinary council will be looking at Kelly’s public protests and efforts to get women ordained into the LDS Church’s priesthood, just the same as the men in the church. It’s a movement she started and has no intention of stopping.
“There isn’t a way to solve this problem and really address these issues without doing what we are doing,” Kelly said.
LDS Church Spokeswoman Jessica Moody said the LDS Church welcomes a civil dialogue and has no problem with members asking questions.
In a statement, Moody said in part, “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.”
The full statement is available at the bottom of this story.
But a local historian, Will Bagley, argues that excommunication has been a tactic of the church throughout history, pointing to six scholars and writers kicked out in 1993.
“How can the church evolve and grow and expand if it refuses to listen?” Bagley asked. “The people that were excommunicated, including several of my friends in1993, were among the most devout Latter Day Saints I’ve ever met.”
Kelly, however, is hoping her future looks different from the past, as she can’t imagine it without her church.
“If I wake up on Monday morning, and I’m no longer a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Kelly said.
Kelly could also be disfellowshipped, rather than excommunicated. It would allow her to remain a church member, but it would prohibit her from participating in most church activities. She said she does not know when a decision will be made.
The full statement from LDS Church Spokeswoman Jessica Moody states:
“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.”