Sunday, June 15, 2014

Excommunication - Not a fan

The big news this month is Kate Kelly of and John Dehlin of facing possible excommunication. The spectre of the 1993's 'September Six" has been raised.

Personally I don't like excommunication. If a person has faith and falls short, this is a step that just shouldn't be taken. Since the inception of the Church, there've been problems with apostasy and falling away and excommunications. It's one of those disciplinary steps that feels steeped in 19th century tradition but is more out of place in a 21st century world.

God never changes, but His children do. That doesn't mean He changes His doctrine with every generation, but when His children ask, He listens. When the children of Israel were wandering the desert and got tired of eating manna, they asked for something else. So God sent quail. Does that mean He changed His doctrine? Yea, behold His doctrine was manna, but then suddenly it was changed to quail. Church isn't true. (crumples up temple recommend)

Spencer W. Kimball
There was great petitioning and questioning when it came to blacks and the Priesthood before the 1978 revelation. Not only did the Church need to be ready for it, but the Brethren through whom the revelation could come. There was even a member excommunicated in 1977 for standing up in General Conference and refusing to sustain the First Presidency over the matter. I've always held it a personal theory that one reason President Harold B. Lee died at the relatively young age of 74 was because he was not ready. But Spencer W. Kimball was.

(UPDATE: This is not me automatically assuming that people questioning the Church now over this or that will be vindicated. I use it as an example of the members desiring a change, petitioning for change, and that change coming via answers to prayers. As for the man who was ex'd over it, I just looked him up and I see he's quite the anti-Mormon now, so never mind on that one.)

Now as far as women in the Church, there are many improvements that can be made. I don't agree with the OrdainWomen movement not because I perceive insincere soul-searching happening there, but if the Church is true, then the Prophet is the one who receives the revelation for the Church, and OW's mission statement says: "Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings." This doesn't sound like a petition of the Church; this sounds like a demand. I heard it somewhere else first, but God does not force blessings on His children when the vast majority do not want them. Pres. Hinckley left the door open for women getting the Priesthood if a revelation came, but with over 80% of men and women in the Church not wanting that change, that's all you need to know.

But speaking more broadly, where can a faithful Church member go who has questions? There are many questions raised that don't have answers.

I refer to some General Conference talks that have helped of late on this matter.  Elder Oaks' 2010 talk on two lines of communication was one. Another was an answer to one of my own questions that some friends helped me find. It's a 1971 talk from young Apostle, Elder Boyd K. Packer.

As for dealing with individuals, I loved this Bishop's Response from ByCommonConsent, maybe my favorite LDS blog out there.

As for those who say, "If you don't like it, leave." I say no, please stay. The Church is undergoing tumultuous times, and there will be more to come. In fact, I'd repeat Pres. Uchtdorf's plea to "Come, Join With Us."

One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”
Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.
Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.5

Unanswered Questions

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.
Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.
Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.

Mistakes of Imperfect People

And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.
In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”6
This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.
It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the councils and workings of this Church, I bear solemn witness that no decision of significance affecting this Church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking the inspiration, guidance, and approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course or fail to fulfill its divine destiny.

There Is Room for You

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.
Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.


  1. Very well said. i'm so glad my friend suggested that i read your blog.
    One very small quibble–just a question, really: Do we know or think the majority of the membership was eager for a change back when blacks were finally ordained?

    I've read their own statements and believe that the OW movement is filled with devoted-to-Christ people. They have made me nervous from the beginning because of my own family's rush to harsh judgment anytime the words "Mormon Feminist" are uttered and I know it is a “hot button” topic for the majority of the body of the church. The statement you quote doesn't sound like a demand to me, though I can see why it does to you and many others. To me it sounds like they are stating a logical equation: in order for C to be achieved (equity) A will need to happen. I don't think they are demanding it to happen, I think they are pointing out equity won't exist until it happens.

    Major social change never seems to happen peacefully. It was more than a decade following the civil rights riots of the 60s before The Church was ready to accept/receive the change for Blacks and the priesthood. I'm most certainly not comparing OW "campaign" to those riots. I see them as respectfully knocking on the door, even when The Church PR office asked them not to. I don't see this or their writings/opinions as an apostate act.

    Speaking of the PR office...I wish, with all of my heart, that the First Presidency would speak for themselves. I do not believe anything wise or good has come from the statements issued by the PR office on the issue–especially when asking the OW group to stay off Temple Square and stand with anti-Mormon groups outside the wall--effectively equating OW as anti-Mormon in, I fear, a majority of member's minds.

    I've truly come to respect the current Pope, who speaks with reporters often, himself and addresses difficult questions himself instead of always using a PR person/office to shield him. I really wish the First Presidency would begin doing the same. The statements issued by the PR office and published in the Deseret News do not come close to communicating the same spirit as the quotes you have shared here. The PR statements feel corporate, defensive, institutional.

    You are so right: the Church is governed by human beings. Human beings make mistakes. For most of the 150 years preceding 1978, the church tacitly approved racist teachings as to why blacks did not hold the priesthood--allowing such “doctrine” to be taught in SS classes, BYU religion classes, and Deseret book publications. It was only recently that they officially declared, “None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.” Note the use of the word “today”. At least we are to assume the First Presidency endorses the essays on –yes, please put your names to these, too.

    i do believe ordained, fallible humans can and do speak for Christ. i do not believe that the church PR office is speaking for Christ to the membership and the world on this issue--but a lot of members obviously do. I believe there is a very good reason that no Prophet has declared officially that women will never receive the priesthood. However, even if one had, I'm not certain it would be an eternal doctrine. Because–as we’ve seen–doctrine, at least for the church here on earth, changes. Joseph Smith endorsed inclusiveness when it came to Blacks and the priesthood, Brigham Young, the opposite. Both were ordained by God.

    I don’t believe the membership of the Church is ready to accept ordination of women--whatever the Prophet were to declare. Perhaps that is why Christ is not yet instructing them to begin doing so yet...because it would freak out so many devoted members? I don't know, but I think it's a possibility. I believe when The First Presidency has been instructed to speak for Christ on the issue, they will do it themselves.

  2. I think excommunication is the only way to repent and fully remove grievous sins from our lives. I don't think the church goes around excommunication people on a whim. In this case, I think they would be absolutely right to excommunicated the woman. You'really right, they are demanding the church change, no, the are demanding God change the church at their discretion. Clearly, they have decided to try and force Heavenly Father's hand. What would be your earthly parents reaction be for such childish behavior? A time out, at the very least. That's what excommunicationis. The opportunity to reflect on your behavior and decide if you want to "straighten up and fly straight" or not. Heaven help us all if Heavenly Father resorted to corporal punishment!�� ��

  3. Thank you John. I appreciate your extended hand of love and fellowship.