Why Don’t We Follow the Instructions?


I can’t help it. I cannot keep quiet. But I should preface this post with something reaffirming in an attempt to protect myself from some kind of backlash. I have a solid testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which fullness I believe one finds in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also believe that men, however inspired, are fallible.

A lot has been said in the aftermath of the blatantly inappropriate excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder and leader of Ordain Women. I can easily sum up the tone of that statement with one of the many thought processes I have entertained over and over the last few days. A lot has been said about the LDS Church’s proper procedures for handling discipline: from probation, to courts of love, to excommunication. James Patterson has lain out the Church’s published procedures, which are available in The Church Handbook of Instruction 1 (CHI1). Outside of the general church authorities, CHI1 is available only to Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics. To put this into perspective, approximately 118,000 men have unrestricted access to this text (although one can find a copy of it online) and only 9 women. Yes, 118,000 to 9 (the three auxiliary presidencies of the Church: Young Women, Relief Society, and Primary General Presidencies). How’s that for a disadvantage?

Additionally, in a brief she submitted for Kate Kelly’s defense, Nadine R. Hansen offers a more in-depth explication of the procedures, which Sister Kelly’s Bishop completely disregarded. But that’s OK, right. After all, this is a Church led by inspiration, so sometimes we are allowed to throw the book out and follow the spirit. How silly of me to think otherwise? Here’s the problem with that. Why should we follow any procedures? Why can’t we just do whatever we feel like and call it inspiration?

People have thrown the phrase “unrighteous dominion” around the internets a lot in the last week. Some people keep using that phrase, and it clearly does not mean what they think it means. Unrighteous dominion, essentially, boils down to one thing: using one’s position in the Church, especially a position of authority (which almost always requires the priesthood) as an excuse to do whatever he or she wants, especially at the expense of another individual.

When I read detailed requirements for discipline procedures in the, seemingly, holiest of all books, CHI1, and then realize that Kate Kelly’s Bishop violated a whole host of those procedures, this is what I hear: “Well, I’m the Bishop [a calling that requires the priesthood]; therefore, I can receive inspiration on this matter to do things however I wish.” In other words, this situation screams, “Unrighteous Dominion.”

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4 replies »

  1. A lot of the procedural “flaws” were trumped up or inaccurate. Others are based on allegations that have since been refuted ( such as Mrs. Kelly’s assertion that her bishop never met with her regarding her views.

  2. I’ve seen counter-arguments for some of the flaws. Some are satisfactory, some are not. But it’s not clear that others, such as Kelly’s bishop not meeting with her, have been “refuted”–the Bishop’s letter regarding Kelly’s excommunication asserts that he did, in fact, meet with her several times, but that doesn’t “refute” anything. It simply means that, barring some sort of evidence, we have (literally!) a game of “he said, she said”.

  3. This is not an open record. This is confidential as far as the Bishop and the Church is concerned. Kelly deserves privacy and those in authority have given it to her. The extent to which she wants to sporadically make some things public serves only her own ends. She engineered her own excommunication, used her own organization to force the issue, then left the Bishopric with nothing to avoid it where she chose not to help herself…not even attend. Now she has the notoriety needs to push her up the ladder.

  4. So, her Bishop is a trained and practicing Lawyer. Hearing the procedures for excommunicating members especially this different procedures that the LDS Church has for men and women, how can a trained lawyer be involved in a court who’s structure and procedure is such an an anathema to modern understanding. It is scary what we humans do when religion trumps our moral compass.

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