Oy vey. I’ve been following the Ordain Women movement which finally came to a head today with the excommunication of their founder, Kate Kelly. It’s such big news that it made the front page of NBC News. And they say the Mormon Moment is over.
I’m writing this post, in many ways, to get my own thoughts on paper and organized. That’s why it’s totally unnecessary. It probably won’t add to the dialogue, it may (or may not) be enlightening and if no one reads it, I’ll be sad, but I’ll get over it. But again, this is mainly for me, so I can have a well-reasoned argument on why I feel the way I feel. Again, not stating that my point of view is correct, just how I feel. And feelings are always valid.
I’ve read a ton of opinion pieces on this subject. Everything from the doctrinal foundation for ordaining women to the outright vitriol spewed by some members of the church who call the Ordain Women movement an affront to everything they hold sacred. Truth be told, there are pieces advocating for peace among all us members, blogs calling the Church a hateful organization run by tyrannical old men and even some bloggers equating the whole movement to a bunch of Mean Girls style memes. The church PR department has inserted itself into the discussion by way of a few statements and videos, attempting to quell the rising tide of public discourse around the validity of the Ordain Women movement. Honestly, I don’t remember this much noise about ANYTHING in the church over the past 20 years. Certainly since I’ve returned from my mission, I’ve not seen something quite like this.
To that point, I have no idea how it was in the 60s and 70s when blacks were refused the priesthood. Certainly social media wasn’t around and everyone didn’t have a voice like they do now, but I imagine there were a number of discussions in a number of meetinghouses about the rights of the blacks to hold the priesthood. I’m sure many felt the church then was “out of touch” and “behind the times” and “run by a bunch of tyrannical old white men.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Which brings me to my first point, and the thing I think that makes the most sense in all of this discussion.
1. The church is not run by the prophets or its leaders. It is run by Jesus Christ.
Now, if you don’t believe in the church or it’s doctrine, you will, no doubt, poo-poo that statement, but that’s just fine. I’ve heard many people say that is a cheap stance and hiding behind the name of the Savior means the leaders of the church are too chicken to do anything about this discussion. If you believe that, fine. But, if you are a member of the church, and you believe, and you’ve made covenants to that end, then you must accept this doctrine. In D&C 1:38, a canonized book of scripture, it reads in part “whether by my voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” That is bold doctrine that states those who are in leadership positions in the church are put there not because they sought the position or “moved up through the ranks,” they are put there because that’s who Jesus Christ wants running the church at this point in time. But, in all matters, it is Christ who directs the affairs of the Church, and not anyone else. To believe otherwise after being baptized and covenanting to keep those commandments, demonstrates a lack of faith in God, Christ and their omnipotence and perfection.
2. Ordain Women is less about ordinances and more about power.
Yes, I know. I’m a white, male member of the church who has had the priesthood since I was 12. I get it. I’m privileged. I’ve never felt put upon by leaders of the church or told that I wasn’t good enough or didn’t hold the proper authority or right to do a particular task in the church because I’ve held the priesthood for most of my adult life. How could I possibly know what it feels like to be discriminated against by a man in power in the church, right?
This is the part of the Ordain Women movement that perhaps irks me the most. The idea that in order to change the culture of the church, the doctrine of the church must change. That’s a load of malarkey if I’ve ever heard it. If there are cultural problems in the church (and there are, big ones in many cases) it is not the fault of the doctrine or the organization. It is the fault of the imperfect people who are here officiating the governance of the church. And if you really want to affect change in the church, we should start with the culture, and not the doctrine. The doctrine is God’s domain. And until He relinquishes control over the doctrine (spoiler alert, He won’t) then we must focus on trying to change what we can control instead of making a fuss about what we cannot.
I live in Utah, but I’ve never thought of myself as a Utah Mormon. I don’t believe in the culture created here–one I believe to be based more on the outward appearance more than inward conviction. I think because of that dichotomy, it leads to a disingenuous application of some doctrine that can lead some to believe that those in power are more out for themselves than the benefit of others. And by out for themselves, I mean that they want everyone to view them as righteous and upstanding and as proof of that, they seek, albeit without much fanfare, positions of importance within their ward or branch that validate their upstanding nature. When they receive a position of authority, its as if to say to everyone: “Hey! God thinks I’m righteous! That’s why I have this calling! Isn’t that cool?” But, what invariably happens to those people is what priesthood holders are taught again and again from the moment they get the priesthood. In D&C 121, the Lord states that it is the “nature and disposition of almost all man (speaking generically and specifically here) as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” What does that mean? Essentially, everyone who is called to a calling of leadership or importance has to fight against the natural tendency to make everyone do what they think should be done at all times. Some succeed. Many fail. And to those that fail, the consequences breed groups like Ordain Women. It happened in the early days of the church, it happened when the September Six were excommunicated from the church several years ago and it is happening today. I recognize this as something called the Pride Cycle.
Essentially, the Pride Cycle is this idea that as soon as we see some success, we start to get caught up in how great we are, and eventually, something happens to pull us back to earth and we humble ourselves, then prosper, then think we’re great and then get humbled again. It happens with people, nations, religions, everything. Seriously, go look at the last 100 years of American History and you’ll see it at least 6 or 7 times. Again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
When it happens in the Church, though, the effect is more jarring. For a people that claim to be Saintly, it’s not always the case. We’re not always nice to each other. We disagree, and there is, at times, vehement discord between many members of the church. Why? Because we forget who is in charge. It’s not us. It’s God. And, in my opinion, it’s exactly what Kate Kelly and Ordain Women have forgotten. They are interested in power that they do not have, that has not been conferred upon them by God. They are saying, in effect, “God, we know better than you. We need to be ordained.” That is the central point of pride. It isn’t arrogance. It isn’t haughtiness and it isn’t being a jerk. No, enmity is at the heart of pride, and that’s exactly what Ordain Women has, sadly, succumbed to.
If you’re not familiar with enmity, it doesn’t simply mean standing in opposition to something, it means quite literally, to set oneself above another person or being. Basically, enmity in this case is the idea that “I know better than God” or “God just doesn’t listen to me and I know what’s best” and other such ideas. This is pride. This is what this whole thing with Ordain Women has turned into. And, to be quite honest, it makes me very, very sad. And this is why:
3. Kate Kelly has led people astray.
Ever read the Book of Mormon? In it, in the first chapter of the book of Alma, there is a man, whose name is Nehor, who is brought before the chief judge over all the land. Nehor has been out among the people telling them that God has revealed a new truth of focusing on making yourself happy (Ayn Rand’s rational selfishness comes to mind here) and has flattered the people away with his words. Nehor basically says that everyone should do whatever they want and that nothing bad will happen to them. For this new religion he has established, people give him money, status, and a number of other things, so much so that he begins to hold bigger and bigger meetings and wear more costly clothing. Eventually, he tries to enforce his beliefs by killing someone and is brought before the chief judge and convicted of priestcraft and murder.
Why do I bring this up? Kate Kelly, for all her flattering words, has essentially set up a priestcraft. I know that seems like a harsh way to put it, but it’s true. She has set up a church and a belief system all on her own and encouraged others to follow that cause. That, my friends is priestcraft, no matter how you slice it.
What I’m curious about is what did she think the outcome of this whole thing would be? In an excellent letter written by Maurine Proctor in Meridian Magazine, that question is asked. The whole piece is worth reading, but basically she posits two outcomes. If Ordain Women is given all that they request, what does that do to the faith of people in the Church and more importantly, in their God? Does it mean that we can petition God and if we’re loud enough about it, get enough people to blog about it and share it enough on Facebook that God will just throw up his arms and say, “Ok. Go ahead. You’ve earned it.” I believe in a God who is immovable and unshaken by the things of the world. An anchor in a world of ever shifting values and if Ordain Women were to get it’s way, it throws into question my entire belief system and the faith of countless millions. Talk about straining a gnat but swallowing a camel.
On the flip side, what if the prophet said essentially, we’ve considered the matter and God has said no at this time. We will continue to ask, but that is His answer. Would that be enough for her? Would she take that gracefully and work to find peace with that answer? Nope, she wouldn’t. And here’s how I know. She was essentially given that answer in April at the last General Conference and still continued her crusade. It’s her way or no way. Again, here’s enmity and pride on full display.
What that means is that she’s helped thousands upon thousands of people call into question their own testimony. How is that helpful? How is it helpful to destroy the peace of others in order to get what you want? Even if they had questions about this particular point of doctrine, what’s to say that one of them wouldn’t have come to a peaceful, satisfying, personal resolution that is between God and the individual had they been given the time, freedom and peace to seek such a resolution? More than anything I’ve read, this is what gives me pause and sadness. Kate Kelly has seen to it that thousands of people now question what they once believed in an effort to advance her own agenda. That smacks of selfishness in the worst possible way.
4. There is room for questioning in the Church. There must be. But not like this.
I have my own questions about some doctrinal matters in the church. They are my own private questions and I don’t need to detail them here, but suffice it to say, I have questions about the nature of repentance and it’s true value to me as a human being. But that’s a different discussion for a different time. But, I bring this up to state that my questions are my own. As a moral, upstanding human being (to say nothing of my membership in the church) it is my moral responsibility to answer those questions on my own and learn what God wants me to know. However, because of the way the priesthood and it’s keys are set up, God will not reveal to me the direction of the church at large. Nor will he reveal it to any of the 12. Only the President of the Church, in this case Thomas S. Monson, will be given direction for the church at large. No one else will be given that direction. I can receive direction for my own life, but not for the lives of others–unless I am given specific keys to do so. As of right now, I only hold the keys for the direction of my family–my wife and kids and that’s it. And before you go off and say that my wife doesn’t need my direction, let me tell you that it’s not about whether or not she needs the direction of the priesthood. It’s whether or not she can have access to it.
You see, in my house, my wife and I are equal partners. She loads the dishwasher, my job is to unload it. I put the boys to bed, she usually deals with the girl. She buys the groceries, I cook. We are very much equal. In weightier matters, we get each other’s opinions, but ultimately, the choice is up to the individual and then we support each other. As long as no criminal activity is encouraged, even if I disagree with her decision, I don’t stand in her way. She does the same for me. But, when she needs a blessing of comfort or health, I’m right there to provide it for her. As the priesthood holder in my house, I don’t have that luxury. I have to make calls, coordinate schedules and generally get blessings from people I don’t know that well, if at all. My wife has the blessing of receiving a priesthood blessing from someone who loves her and has her best interest at heart. Someone who knows all the details and who can provide a personal and powerful blessing to help in all aspects, not just some. And that activity can bind a husband and wife in a way that few activities can. In this way, she has access to all the blessings of the priesthood far more readily than I ever will.
Now I know some will say that, if women had the priesthood, you could have the same blessing! That is true, but that is not how God has ordained it. Why? I dunno. No one does. In a recent talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12 apostles, he says the following: “When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.” This, to me, is the classic example of the scripture in Isaiah. “My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts, your thoughts.”
What some have failed to remember is that this life is a test and we must all walk by faith. If God, through his ordained servants, says something that we struggle with and gnaws at the very core of our soul, that is our cross to bear. And we must learn to bear it. It is hard. It is difficult. Some people try to find answers and explanations in anyway that they can with the hope of gaining some insight or some perspective that will help them understand better, only to be regularly denied at every turn. Why? Because life is a test and God wants us to prove ourselves and our faith to Him. And that, my friends, is the purpose of life. We are not here to agitate or stir up trouble. We are here to learn and grow through testing and humility, and God will provide that test to us whether we like it or not, in ways that we may not like, but ultimately, if we have faith, will come to understand.
5. Just because someone does something wrong, doesn’t give you license to call them a bad person.
I know that I’ve accused Kate Kelly of priestcraft and other prideful sins in this post. I stand by that. That said, I don’t think she’s a bad person. I think her decisions reflect an extraordinary amount of poor judgement, but she is not bad. No one who believes in Ordain Women is a bad person. Not one. And to think, act or talk that way is to invite discord into your spirit that doesn’t need to be there.
After the incident with Nehor in the Book of Mormon, there was a law established in the church at the time. It read: Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.
Brothers and Sisters, we are all better than this. Ordain Women has pulled us apart, not together. And if that doesn’t tell you who is behind this whole thing, than I don’t know what else will. Changes in this Church are done in love and kindness and with a great deal of patience. The Church will always take the long view (the eternal view) and not the view of the day, week, or even year. Why? Because Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church and He sees the eternal, not just the here and now.
So, be good to those that divide us. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
Lastly, the Church is not filled with perfect individuals. It is filled with imperfect individuals trying to be as saintly as possible, for the most part. And while our stumbles and falls may be more public now than they have been before, that doesn’t detract from the collective faith, burning in the hearts of individuals the world over. All are on their own path to God and to deny them that progress is maybe the worst thing we can do. Instead, let us help each other. Let us be kind. Let us be patient. And, perhaps most importantly, let us be led by faith, informed by holy scripture and guided by the Spirit of God. Then, and only then, can we find the growth, happiness and peace that we all seek. Even those with whom we loudly disagree.