Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Interpreting Ordain Women’s Motivation


It has been a rough week for many church members in the Mormon community. Even attempts to control my passion when posting links to articles seem to have failed. One person called me anti-Mormon.

I have never once spewed hate toward the Church that I love. I have never uttered a single anti-Mormon sentiment. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today, and I believe one can find its fullness in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For people who know me at all, this should not require an explanation. I should not feel the need to defend my faith and my witness of that faith. Having said that, I want to say outright, as clearly as I possibly can, that I believe the excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women (OW), is a travesty of justice.

I am an extremely intelligent man, and not necessarily because of my credentials, which are impressive. Does this statement make me prideful? Does this lack sufficient humility for someone to lend credibility to my words? Look, God, our Father in Heaven, has blessed all of his children with intelligence. In fact, according to Mormon teachings, we have always existed as, at least, “intelligences.” So let me also make clear, I have done my research. But it takes very little research and almost no effort to understand OW better.OW

While I do not officially support OW—I do not have a profile on their website—I have no problem with the organization and what they stand for. I am certainly no voice for OW, but I know a lot of people who would be far less antagonistic toward the organization if they understood it the way I do. Again, that is not to say that I am correct in my interpretations, and I welcome correction from more involved members of the organization.

If you think I am ignorant to the perceived harm that OW has done, then you must have missed the paragraph where I lauded my intelligence. It took me a long time to decide how I felt about OW because I spent so much time researching and studying it out in my mind.

I recently spoke candidly to some friends about OW and the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, and one provided a very sincere, heart-felt explanation of her own views. She does not support OW, but she does not necessarily judge Kate Kelly because, in her words, “I don’t know her.” However, she does know women, friends of her mother, who cited the OW movement as their reasons for leaving the church. Despite my frequent defense of this organization or movement, if you prefer, that makes complete sense. I understand and fully accept that. I know people who left for similar reasons. If that is solely the case, is that justification enough to excommunicate Kate Kelly? I say, no.

I will explain by starting with a question: What exactly has OW done that would cause people to leave the church? Now, keep in mind I believe and accept that OW has helped people decide to leave the church. Do you have an answer? If you said, “Because OW teaches false doctrine,” I am sorry but that is not correct. In fact, there is nothing contrary to LDS Church teachings in their stated purposes and goals. So what is it? Why can I accept that OW has contributed to people’s leaving the Church? It’s because OW tells the truth, the stripped down, non-sugary, bitter truth. Just the facts.

But what about their advocation for women’s ordination? Certainly that speaks out against the church. Before I answer that, I will offer my interpretation of OW’s actions, which will naturally transition into why I believe they do advocate for women’s ordination and why I believe they have not crossed a line. First, I swill step into a brief digression, which I will make relevant and which will lead to my answer.

While I believe the church to be true, I also know that humans are fallible. The problem is that most Mormons refuse to accept this. Case in point, the recent “court of love” for Kate Kelly. I discussed the lack of proper procedure in an early post. The first comment on that post illustrates my point perfectly:

“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.”

It is difficult to “trump up” flaws when one can read the procedures for disciplinary councils in black and white. The Church Handbook of Instruction, Vol. 1 clearly explains the procedures, and some of them were not appropriately followed. However, rather than use her or his intelligence and go to the source material, this commenter chose to accept other’s words about such flaws as “trumped up or inaccurate.”

So even after President Dieter F. Uchtdorf announced in a recent LDS General Conference that church leaders have made mistakes, the above commenter refused to believe that a Bishop, a lay clergyman who has a life filled with responsibility to others through home and work, may have made some mistakes.

The founders of OW are also fallible. Aren’t we all fallen? Perhaps, then, their approach was not perfect, but, considering their intelligence, and the way it appears to me that they studied the situation, they came to the only conclusion that they could come to. The opening statement on clarifies their original, and still in my mind their only, intent:

“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone.”

Most people skim over this part and focus on the second half:

“As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

How dare they do such a thing! Making public demands of the church is outrageous. What will the world think? What will other members think? Oh, all those poor women who will be led astray. And this has been the general discourse from the opposition. But we cannot ignore the first sentence. There is nothing else without that sentence. These women recognize clear inequality in the church. After studying it out, they must have realized that almost all of the gender inequality in the church rests with the patriarchal structure and the total domination of the male priesthood. Take away the priesthood and the opportunities for inequality have a clear path to reconciliation. Then no one can hold unchecked authority over another person. However, we cannot perform saving ordinances or other important work without the priesthood, so that is not an option. The priesthood is necessary for the true church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if the priesthood is the only thing that stands in the way of equality, the logical step toward that equality is ordaining women to the priesthood. That is why OW advocates for women’s ordination. Based upon the structure of the church, the hierarchy, it is the clearest path to equality.

Maybe it’s wrong, in the end, but the church has had ample opportunity to address that, as OW’s leaders have continually sought an open dialogue with church leaders. What if those church leaders would have met with OW early and said as much? In other words, not that I feel like I am in any position to dictate terms or counsel the Lord. I am simply offering an alternative to men that are no less fallible than I. In other words, then, what if church leaders would have sat down with OW and recognized their concerns? What if they would have said that after careful prayer and consideration they feel that the Lord wants to keep the priesthood where it is, in the hands of men? With that out of the way, they would have been free to focus on the heart of the matter, which isn’t necessarily women holding the priesthood but the lack of inequality that has stemmed from the practice of ordaining only men. Perhaps the spirit of God would have flooded their meeting and inspired them all to make good on the concerns these and so many other women have. If only the church leaders, after making it clear that based on prayer, women’s ordination is off the table, would have asked, “What else, then, could we do to address your concerns, to address the inequality you see and feel every day in the church?”

Instead we are left to ponder our place in what has come to look increasingly like a police state, a place where no dissent, no seeming discord can be allowed to exist. We are Zion, after all; we must ever be of one heart and one mind because we have always been at war with Eastasia.

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11 replies »

  1. I respect your opinion but completely disagree. My arguments probably many you’ve heard already. I take my role as a mother very seriously and feel I have a lot of responsibility. Women and men have different roles. I am grateful for mine.

  2. Well, you gave this an accurate title. You are interpreting. Your “facts” have no more truth than other points of view. Whereas a lot of us believe that differences may not be inequality, and may even be more equitable than treating the genders the same. You seem to have bought into the idea (not really a fact, sorry) that equality can only come from treating the genders the same.

    I see the church as promoting a third way, that doesn’t buy into the predominant worldy viewpoint that you espouse, nor a “traditional” male-on-top viewpoint of the past, but rather a radically different view of equal partners in which nurturing is equal to traditionally male things like serving with their priesthood (which they can never use for their own benefit).

  3. A Proposition: Perhaps the raging war between the sexes “out there” in the world has reached such an irreconcilable level that the ways of Priesthood in the Mormon Church has become a convenient target and scape goat.

  4. If you believe a travesty of justice has occurred, then why do you obliquely refer to procedural problems without articulating reasons why Kelly’s behavior does not constitute apostasy?

  5. I agree that priesthood leaders on any level can make mistakes. It does not follow that it is reasonable or responsible to make public demands (your word) to change fundamental principles of doctrine. If we believe that we are led ultimately by Jesus Christ, whose Church this is, then we should let Him be in charge of correcting any mistakes made by fallible men. We should not regard that as our job, or try to embarrass leaders or put them in a false light while we are waiting for Jesus to agree with our views. If I thought that the doctrines of the Church were subject to community organizing tactics, I would not have the same testimony of them that I do now.

  6. You assume church leaders have not met with or tried to meet with OW?
    You assume that proper procedures were not followed when you do not know the whole story. One published letter does not tell a whole story. In fact there were indications in it that the whole truth had not been told. Bishops can choose not to transfer records When there is disciplinary action in process.
    You assume a transfer of records might have resulted in a different action when in fact it may have resulted in a less compassionate one.
    OW keeps saying that they want church leaders to pray about it and yet the recent first presidency statement and conference talks show they have.
    I have tried to read and understand a variety of other points of view and decided it didn’t make sense to me!
    I think there are so many good causes – so many needs in the world! There are so many sick and lonely to visit, temple and missionary work to do, indexing and family history research, schools and youth in crisis, Illiteracy to overcome, language training, children with special needs who have no homes, Children who need foster care, orphanages throughout the world, scripture study, prayers, and on and on!

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