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Some Questions for Ordain Women

couple-talkingJoanna Brooks recently expressed some of her concerns about the potential fallout over Kate Kelly’s disciplinary counsel in a column at Religion Dispatches. Progressive Mormons have used the internet to connect with other members who share the same political views, and some of the same questions and concerns about the Church. In light of the recent events, some progressive Mormons fear that their support of the Ordain Woman movement may put their church membership in jeopardy. I think the use of the internet has been a tremendous blessing to this small segment of the church, and I hope it continues to be. What has perplexed me are those like Ordain Women who have used the internet as a platform to challenge the church openly, as if it were a secular institution that can be persuaded through popular opinion.


 

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How do members of the Church support organizations like Ordain Women, and yet believe that the Church is divinely led? I have read many blogs and news reports featuring members who are sympathetic to Kelly’s cause, but they never show how this movement is in harmony with the doctrines of the Church. To help me (and many others) better understand the other side of this issue, I have included several questions below that came to mind as I read Brooks’ article.

I want to make it clear that the purpose of this post is not to bash Kate Kelly (there has been enough of that already) or attack her character in any way. Although the questions center on her and the Ordain Women movement, they are meant to be applied to a wide range of individuals and situations who struggle rectifying their faith in the church with their personal beliefs.

To Joanna Brook’s column:

“We were so hopeful it wouldn’t turn out this way (That sister Kelly would be called in for a disciplinary council). Maybe it still won’t. Maybe the highest profile excommunication court—that scheduled this Sunday in Virginia for Kate Kelly, a believing Mormon woman and one of the founders of the web-based Ordain Women campaign—will end without Sister Kelly having her baptism and marriage nullified, her membership in a Church she served as a full-time missionary expunged.”

This raises several questions in my mind. First and foremost, what reasoning might lead someone to conclude that Sister Kelly is a “believing Mormon woman”? Second, if you believe she qualifies, what criteria are you basing that assertion? Finally, can one truly be considered a believing Mormon and at the same time continually challenge those who hold priesthood keys from the bishop, all the way to the quorum of the Twelve Apostles? I submit that there are three central fundamental beliefs in Mormonism. First, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet. Second, that The Book of Mormon is God’s word revealed to man. Third, that the church is directed by God through his appointed servants who hold priesthood keys.

I find it difficult to categorize her as a believing Mormon woman (this assertion in no way implies she is a bad person) when she openly rejects the premise that the Church is guided by revelation. That is not to say the church is perfect, or that mistakes have not happened in the past. But to assert that those who hold priesthood keys have somehow overlooked one of the most significant aspects of the Church organization, from my perspective,  is grounds for calling into question one’s faith and confidence in the way God has set up His kingdom on earth.

More from Joanna Brooks:

But it’s also being reported that the stage may have been set for Kelly’s excommunication court when one high-ranking LDS official (Elder Ballard) remarked at a regional leadership meeting in Virginia, ‘that support for women’s ordination should be considered a form of apostasy.’

If the Ordain Women movement does not constitute apostasy, then what would? Additionally, if it does qualify as apostasy then what other choice did the Church have? This raises a further question in my mind in regard to how far we let members go in supporting ideas contrary to Church doctrine. What if a believing Mormon created an organization that advocated the church to bring back polygamy, would you consider that to be a form of apostasy? What exactly do you propose in regard to how the Church should handle the Ordain Women movement?

One last comment from Joanna Brooks:

“This, we thought, was a good sign. A sign that might not need to fear losing our membership, our place, in a cherished tradition, just for having and voicing questions, doubts, and differences. We told ourselves to not to be afraid.”

I cannot help but question why one would fear losing your membership for simply “voicing questions, doubts, and differences”? Let us look at Sister Kelly’s behaviors and commentary. Was she just asking questions or was it more than that? I mean, what answers would have been sufficient for her? There have been General Conference’s talks addressing this issue, yet that still was not enough.

I want to close by saying that the more I listen to different voices on this issue, the more I find myself frustrated with the lack of clarity. I hope everyone that reads this post is willing to take a moment to help me and the many others who share these questions.  Any thoughts or responses would be appreciated in the comments below. Thank you.

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Comments

  1. I usually like your postings but I’m not sure I agree with some of your stances. What about polygamy and black re: the Priesthood? Was it apostasy to object to these? I am not terribly vocal and am not that familiar with Kate Kelly.

    However, more and more I feel that the Church has policies that conflict with the Lessons I was taught. Do I leave the Church or do I stay in the Church and beg it to come back to me?

    • “I usually like your postings but I’m not sure I agree with some of your stances. What about polygamy and black re: the Priesthood? Was it apostasy to object to these? I am not terribly vocal and am not that familiar with Kate Kelly.”

      In my view, asking questions and having objections is a healthy sign that you take your faith seriously. Our Father wants us to engage our mind and think critically about issues, including gospel issues. People run into problems when they fall outside the bounds he has set that provides protection safety and guidance. One of the most important “bounds,” he has set up is the counsel that comes from the living Prophet and Apostles. We can look to them as a way to measure ourselves. luckily, they have addressed this issue in the past few general conferences. The problem you run into is when you openly challenge the church in the public sphere after the answer to your question has already been given.

      Elder Maxwell taught in his book, Lord Increase our Faith, that there are many facets to faith. To name but a few he discusses, faith in Christ, faith in the Father, faith in the Book of Mormon, faith in the plan of salvation and faith in the priesthood. Having faith that in those who hold the keys of the priesthood can be very difficult, especially when they conflict with our own ideas and opinions. I feel that many resist asking questions out of fear that they may be doing something wrong, As long as we used the right reference points (prophets, scriptures, spirit) when we are doing our thinking then we will be fine.

      You said, “I feel that the Church has policies that conflict with the Lessons I was taught.” if you feel comfortable sharing I would love to here what some of those are.

  2. Posts like this remind me of one of my favorite exchanges from the Simpsons:

    Jane: We’re having a free get-acquainted session at our resort this weekend.
    Homer Simpson: How much is this free resort weekend?
    Glen: It’s free.
    Homer Simpson: And when is this weekend?
    Glen: It’s this weekend.
    Homer Simpson: Uh-huh. And how much does it cost?
    Glen: Um, it’s free.
    Homer Simpson: I see. And when is it?
    Glen: It’s this weekend.
    Homer Simpson: And what are you charging for this free weekend?
    Bart Simpson: Come on, Dad. The team’s arriving.
    Homer Simpson: [being dragged away by Bart] It’s free, right?

    These issues in this post have been addressed over and over and over again. You might believe that the answers OW supporters have given are inadequate or incoherent, but by not acknowledging that the conversation exists beyond a hand wave to the “many” blogs you’ve read you demonstrate at best an unwillingness to engage with the other side and at worst an outright contempt for it. Simply calling for more charity is hollow if you refuse to try to engage OW on its own terms.

    • I try to keep my posts to a max of 800 words, I could have written a lot more, but i figured 1000 words was sufficient. Your comment made a lot of assumptions about me (which is not to charitable) which is disappointing. I wish you would have made a comment that actually contribute to the conversation.

      I am really confused about the other assumption you made, that I am unwilling to engage people on the side. You are aware that most people who read Approaching justice are liberals right? I expect everyone to disagree with me, imagine that. By the way, I am not calling for “charity,” but clarity.

  3. As one who has become much more of a liberal Mormon, there are a couple things that glaringly stood out to me from this post. One of those is the assumption that Kate Kelly rejects that the Church is guided by revelation. This is clearly wrong, since a revelation is exactly what she believes would be needed to end the ban on female ordination.

    This is related to my second point, in which I think a major point of understanding/misunderstanding is how some Mormons seem to conflate God and the prophet. and believe that if God wants change he will literally dictate to the prophet so we mortals can just sit back and wait for divine direction. But from my experience and also in history, I see that God expects for us to make the first move. WE humans decide to act or take a question before The Lord and THEN hope for divine direction.

    Liberal Mormons don’t reject dramatic divine intervention, but we see that it is rare. More often than not as we walk by faith the light comes as though while in a fog (“one step enough for me” at a time as we make progress on the journey). Other times the light/revelation comes like the dawning of the sun, gradually. Every once in awhile it might be dramatic, like turning on a switch in a dark room.

    But we all, prophets included, “see through a glass darkly” and any revelation comes through a human and fallible filter.

    The Church is a human organization seeking the divine. And that last statement with all it’s implications might be the biggest point of misunderstanding between us:

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-church-is-made-up-entirely-of-human.html

    • ” One of those is the assumption that Kate Kelly rejects that the Church is guided by revelation.”

      One thing the author has made clearly to me is that Kelly believes the Church is guided by revelation sourced through public opinion she agrees with. …just like so many other Christian churches in the land.

    • I actually agree with everything you said except;
      “But we all, prophets included, “see through a glass darkly” and any revelation comes through a human and fallible filter. ”

      They are called SEERs for a reason.

      Although there are many points I would love to address with you, I am going to choose one to keep it simple. You said:
      “…one of those is the assumption that Kate Kelly rejects that the Church is guided by revelation. This is clearly wrong, since a revelation is exactly what she believes would be needed to end the ban on female ordination.”

      CleanCut, shes got her revelation, three members of the quorum of the twelve have addressed this issues just within the past few months. Elder Oaks (General Conference, April 2014), Elder Ballard (Stake conference in VA), Elder Bednar (four months ago at the MTC, my mother in law works there). This is my point ClearCut, if she believes in revelation, where does she think its going to come from?

  4. (With wide-eyed innocence)

    What!?! He’s just asking questions! What’s wrong with asking questions? How dare you try to silence his questions!

  5. Wow, three central fundamental beliefs in Mormonism and not one reference to Christ among them? Leader worship won’t save us. Maybe it’s time to move on from the traditions of our fathers, recognize all are alike unto God, that God will only give us as much as we are able to receive, and set about seeking the mind and will of God instead of trying to justify why we’re already perfect and haven’t any need of further light and knowledge.

    • Fair point about Christ Steve.

      Not sure about what traditions of the fathers you are referring to.

      I am not sure who you are hanging out with Steve, but people who assert they are perfect and they have no need of any further light cant be uplifting to be with 🙂

  6. Clean Cut has basically said what I would have said.

    If I had to drill the basic difference between a liberal Mormon and an apostate (as I see it), it would be something like this: the liberal Mormon still feels called to the church, and still finds value in the Mormon institution. Kate Kelly and other Ordain Women supporters don’t find it a valid option, for example, to just leave and go to another church, because the *LDS* church is the one they are called to.

    There’s a big question as to how revelation happens. We know that “big” issues in the church have changed (e.g., race and priesthood, polygamy), so it doesn’t necessarily follow that “big” issues are immune from being “somehow overlooked.” The question then is whether the membership has an effect on revelation — and people can certainly make a case that they might.

    • To be clear, I do not assert that being a liberal in the church is the same as being an apostate.

      “There’s a big question as to how revelation happens.”
      No question, but wouldn’t you agree that one of the purposes in the Lord setting up the church they way he did was to help protect us from being deceived. In other words, recognizing the spirit is one of the most difficult things to learn in mortality. For those (self included) who have a difficult time knowing for sure when the spirit speaks, can look to those who hold the keys as a guide, much the same way a person looks to the starts to find their baring.

      “We know that “big” issues in the church have changed (e.g., race and priesthood, polygamy), so it doesn’t necessarily follow that “big” issues are immune from being “somehow overlooked.” The question then is whether the membership has an effect on revelation — and people can certainly make a case that they might.”

      No doubt external influences effect revelation, and lets just say for arguments sake that the Lord has every intention on giving the priesthood to woman. We can know for sure that as of right now its not going to happen. Things have to come in the Lords time and its clear from the messages of the 12 that the time is not now. To openly reject that counsel in the public sphere is apostasy.

      • Shaun,

        I’ve already said this on Facebook, so I’ll say this here — I fear you have an overinclusive definition of apostate. I’m not necessarily saying that the terms are mutually exclusive, but I’m still saying that Kate Kelly shouldn’t fit a reasonable definition of apostate.

        For fullest of disclosures, I say this greatly because I think I’m probably someone who would more likely qualify as an apostate (but I’m a nobody on the internet, so nobody messes with me). Several years ago, a lot of the liberal blogs just didn’t make sense to me. I thought that it was either the conservative way or the highway. But over time, I have come to appreciate the difference in the viewpoint, and also the value and legitimacy therein. If the church doesn’t want that viewpoint, I think that’s a grave mistake, but no skin off my nose.

        …wouldn’t you agree that one of the purposes in the Lord setting up the church they way he did was to help protect us from being deceived.

        Not really. I think that the organization of the church is really more of an administrative or organizational concern. One thing I think that liberal Mormons get right is in thinking that one’s spiritual condition (including whether one is being deceived or not) is more of a conversation between institutional and personal revelation. If you’re not following *your own* access to spirituality as you perceive it, you are lost even if you follow every rule the church gives you.

        In other words, recognizing the spirit is one of the most difficult things to learn in mortality. For those (self included) who have a difficult time knowing for sure when the spirit speaks, can look to those who hold the keys as a guide, much the same way a person looks to the starts to find their baring.

        This is an interesting example that shows the difficulties therein. An untrained person cannot look at the stars to find their bearing. You need training to rely upon the stars. And the stars will have various usefulness depending on where you are and where you’re trying to go. The stars may be valuable because they are relatively fixed points in the sky (notwithstanding the fact that our world keeps spinning and rotating and whatnot), but people can’t follow fixed directions. They need to look at what is appropriate for their situation.

        But I think this analogy can still be used.

        Recognizing the spirit does seem to be one of the most difficult things to learn in mortality. But it doesn’t seem like the leaders necessarily have an easier job of it, or a greater access or ability for it. Rather, the value the leaders provide is that they have an institutional mantle — whereas most of us struggle to recognize the spirit over insight over our personal lives or maybe the lives of our families [and regardless of how “good” we are at it, we still have to do it because we are called to do so], the leaders struggle to recognize the spirit over insight over corporate church matters [and similarly, regardless of how “good” they are at it, they still have to do it because they are called to do so.]

        Individuals must assess whether any particular guidance given to them from any source is right for their lives at a particular time, and also must assess how best they can help and support those providing guidance to them at any particular time. Where I think institutional Mormonism probably gets things right is in understanding that there is still a tension between individualism and institution — the institution is not “optional”, in the sense that even if we don’t like our families, jobs, schools, ward, whatever, we still are bound with them, because we would be hardpressed to live alone. So, in this way, a faithful response is to continue striving with the leaders — even if one does not agree. That is a major difference I think for Kate Kelly. i will still note that such striving does not mean giving in to them all the time, or over every issue. Sustaining does not simply mean being a yes-man (or yes woman.)

        No doubt external influences effect revelation, and lets just say for arguments sake that the Lord has every intention on giving the priesthood to woman. We can know for sure that as of right now its not going to happen. Things have to come in the Lords time and its clear from the messages of the 12 that the time is not now. To openly reject that counsel in the public sphere is apostasy.

        But here’s the crucial difference — you’re saying “external” influence effect revelation. I’m saying this is begging the question. The crucial question is whether “internal” influence can effect revelation, and whether Kate’s actions can count as “internal”.

        Let’s just say for argument’s sake that the Lord has every intention on giving the priesthood to women. Does that mean we can know for sure that as of right now, it’s not going to happen? Let me be clear: we precisely cannot know this, because we do not know for sure how revelation happens, or what catalyzes it. We can look at previous examples of big revelations and make guesses on what was necessary as a prerequisite. We can look at previous examples of big revelations and make guesses on what happened that might seem to indicate it would not have happened.

        The difference between you and someone like Kate Kelly is that you seem to believe that revelation is a passive process to the general membership. But someone like Kate Kelly…she looks in the scriptures and looks to examples from the past and she says to herself and to others, “Revelation happens because people say something. Revelation happens because people “weary the Lord”.

        I do not think this is an apostate view. I do not think that is an apostate thinking process. I personally don’t think that the actions flowing from this thinking process are apostate, but I don’t have any institutional authority and do no pretend otherwise. The church certainly has its prerogative to say that her actions are apostate (because they have that institutional control, as it were), but we can’t just say, “Because the disciplinary court happened, therefore we have a conclusive answer on what constitutes apostasy and a conclusive answer on whether ordination will happen any time soon.”

        People were excommunicated the year before the 1978 revelation. And those folks were doing far worse.

  7. lyndeeh says:

    Following

  8. Kristine says:

    There is an enormous difference between challenging policy and practice and not believing in revelation. Here’s an ancient bloggernacle discussion with some good ideas (in the comments, not necessarily the OP ;))

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/03/apologia-of-a-critical-believer/

  9. Martin James says:

    These are not Ordain women’s answers but they are answers that I find to be plausible for a reasonable person

    1. First and foremost, what reasoning might lead someone to conclude that Sister Kelly is a “believing Mormon woman”?

    No person who wasn’t a believing mormon would want the Priesthood of the LDS church. Do you know any examples of non-believing people that advocate for access to the priesthood in the LDS church?

    2. Second, if you believe she qualifies, what criteria are you basing that assertion?

    In addition to the above, she is reported to have a temple recommend which would mean paying tithing, which is the church’s usual evidence for being a believer.

    3. Finally, can one truly be considered a believing Mormon and at the same time continually challenge those who hold priesthood keys from the bishop, all the way to the quorum of the Twelve Apostles?

    Certainly one can if one is a Mormon with a belief in both authority and agency. The church is not led by Christ except through the still small voice. From my limited understanding, Ordain Women has never challenged the leadership of the church as the only authority that could receive the revelation to ordain women. We have evidence in the scriptures of prophets pleading for deliverance or compassion on their people. In fact if one does not call upon the lord continually one is not following mormon counsel.

    4. If the Ordain Women movement does not constitute apostasy, then what would?

    Claiming the church is not true or is teaching false doctrine.

    5. Additionally, if it does qualify as apostasy then what other choice did the Church have?

    The lds church claimed that the bishop had complete authority to decide. Many other bishops have not not excommunicated people who have done the same things as Kate Kelly.

    6. What if a believing Mormon created an organization that advocated the church to bring back polygamy, would you consider that to be a form of apostasy?

    I thought many church members believe that polygamy may return in the future including in the hereafter.

    7. What exactly do you propose in regard to how the Church should handle the Ordain Women movement?

    At a minimum give public, advance notice that support of Ordain Women constitutes apostasy or less radically identify it as an organization opposed to the church. Alternatively, they could be called to repentance in general conference by the prophet. Or do nothing. They are no barrier to any church function that I am aware of.

    8. I cannot help but question why one would fear losing your membership for simply “voicing questions, doubts, and differences”?

    What else has John Dehlin done?

    9.Was she just asking questions or was it more than that?

    She was requesting specific actions like prayerful requests by the prophet, but I am not aware that there were any conditions to those requests.

    10. I mean, what answers would have been sufficient for her?

    I believe that if the prophet stated he prayed about it and received an answer that would be sufficient to her request. It would be clear to me that if it was not sufficient then she was not being honest about her requests.

    I too am troubled by the lack of clarity but I find more clear language coming from Ordain women. The clarity of their writing s are part of what creates the controversy.

  10. Robinobishop, I really appreciate your comments, but you need to help me out in terms of who your talking to. I don’t know if you are referring to me or Casey. Can you be more specific 😉

  11. This may have been addressed already and if it has, feel free to delete this comment. Revelation comes in response to questions. Always has, always will. If there is division within a quorum of General Authorities (like the 12, or the First Presidency), then the issue continues to be discussed until consensus is reached, and if the 12 disagree with the First Presidency, then the 70 are the tie breakers (D&C somewhere for both of those points). It is entirely legitimate to question the Lord, even to wrestle with the Lord–Genesis. And Man’s Agency is a fundamental value to our Heavenly Father. It was Satan’s plan to force, coerce, or manipulate man. (Pearl of Great Price) If Heavenly Father over-ruled one of these leaders, He would cease to be God, He would become Satan. So, if I am troubled by a doctrine, it is my obligation as a person who already has priesthood power ( not authority), to question. As it is yours. It is not my place to teach contrary doctrine, but to question doctrine is my place. That’s how the gospel was restored in the 1800s, and how it has been refined, repeatedly, since then. Sorry I didn’t find the references and check the prior comments, but I’ve got to get to carpool.

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