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.”