When one stake president takes a temple recommend from a member of the church for the same thing that another stake president finds no problem with, it begs the question, “Who is really in charge?” But it’s not just stake presidents; many bishops have gone one way or the other, too. For the last several months, fall out over the Ordain Women (OW) movement in the LDS Church has garnered a lot of attention, and a lot of that attention has been criticism from the orthodoxy, in the form of Op-eds, blog posts, and even press releases from the church itself. However, despite the spotlight shone so prominently on OW, LDS Church leadership remained silent. Members of the church relied wholly on vague, sometimes cryptic messages from the Church’s PR department. Many parts of those messages remained open to interpretation because no one had any way of verifying exactly where they came from.
Perhaps the biggest story, still, is the excommunication of Kate Kelly, still a fresh wound in the hearts of many. Shortly thereafter, the First Presidency did release an official statement that satisfied hosts of the orthodoxy, but a simple skimming of that statement reveals that it merely reiterates the status quo. It provides no definitive answer to OW’s request that LDS leaders petition the Lord, neither does it indicate whether said leaders have petitioned the Lord.
Since Kate Kelly’s excommunication, local church leadership has been extremely active in many parts of the USA and the rest of the world. Many women and men in the church have faced disciplinary actions, and I personally know a half dozen people whose leaders, bishops and stake presidents, have taken away their temple recommends, the standard of worthiness and good spiritual standing in the LDS Church. I have heard stories of more than a dozen others who have faced the same penalty or another. Also, I know people whose leaders have chosen to excommunicate them and others who felt compelled to resign from the church. A number of these people I consider dear friends. The effect of any type of church discipline in nearly every one of these cases has been the pushing of those members away. Many have chosen inactivity at the very least because no one wants to go to church every week and see the man who is holding her or his spirituality hostage.
So what exactly is happening at the local level of the LDS Church? Is there a great purge sweeping the nation, the world, under the direction of the central church leadership in an attempt to rid the church of all these apostates? While at first glance this appears obvious, a closer look reveals a divided kingdom. In addition to all that church discipline against supporters of OW, even some who have never shown public support, many other members, some of whom I know, have retained their temple recommends despite their outspoken support of OW, even having OW profiles on the OW website. We expect that leaders on both sides diligently prayed and sought guidance in these matters, yet some feel compelled to remove church blessings, even without any clear cause in some cases, while others have no desire to do so and are even happy to renew temple recommends. The question this begs, one which I know will stir controversy (and I can already see the explanations and justifications people are likely to bombard me with), “Who is wrong?” Which of these leaders are making mistakes?