Kate and John

My heart won’t stop hurting. I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been summoned to church court for their activities related to the Ordain Women movement and the Mormon LGBT movement. I’m not upset because I’m an ardent supporter of either movement. I’m upset because I firmly believe that every Saint deserves to have a voice in our community. I’m upset because I am so grateful to people like Kate and John who are willing to say “dangerous” things out loud, when so many of us want to, but are too afraid to. I’m upset because of the atmosphere of fear that enters into our faith community when this sort of thing happens. What can I safely say? What causes dear to my heart will be “approved” by my respected church leaders? Do I trust my own spirit to hear and interpret the voice of the Holy Spirit, or do I leave that solely to my leaders, who I am sure listen to the same Spirit? What do I do when those spiritual interpretations collide? This sort of conundrum causes all sorts of self doubt. Some walk. Sometimes I wonder if the best of us walk, and if my choice to stay is foolish or faithful. I’ll say it right here at the start, though: despite all its man-made quirks and flaws, I love the Church and am convinced it holds the power of full salvation. So I stay. But right now, it just hurts.

Full disclosure: I have known Kate Kelly since she was four years old. Her dad was my (excellent) bishop 25 years ago. Her mom is one of my closest friends. The Kelly family has always been one of those stalwart families of every ward they attend. They bring wisdom and passion and total commitment to every just cause they can, always under the banner of Jesus Christ. Kate is like that. Her activism stems from her deep love of the Lord and His church. I can feel nothing but respect for such a Saint. My respect doesn’t diminish because I disagree on certain proferred solutions to a shared concern. I love the discussion. I love the honesty. I love that Kate is willing to be on the front lines, to take the heat that I am frankly unwilling to bear. Of course we won’t all agree on “final solutions.” The apostles don’t either. The point is that every voice at the table of the Lord should be welcomed, respected, heard.

I knew nothing of John Dehlin before Thursday. This TED talk http://mormonstories.org/my-tedx-talk-the-ally-within-on-being-a-mormon-lgbt-ally/ was my first introduction to him.  At this point, I can only presume his heart is true. We all have to make judgments of this proposition or that. But in the community of Saints, I choose to assume that every good member follows the same Leader, that we are all doing our very best to hear and obey the word of the Lord, whether it comes from the mouths of prophets or the voice of the Spirit. I do believe that those two avenues of revelation will merge into the “same” but that is not always immediate. If we won’t trust the Spirit’s revelations to us personally, we are living dishonestly, and that never works. As Kate so boldly asserted, “What you are asking me to do is to live inauthentically and that is something I am not willing to do.”

My own personal experience is that when confronted with such an apparent dichotomy, when it feels like a choice between following the prophets or my own conscience, it is always a situation of paradox. It feels like a faith crisis, but is in reality (at least for me) an opportunity to deepen faith. I know that the Lord speaks to the prophets words of truth and life. I know that he speaks words of truth and life to me, as well, on a much more personal level. Their stewardship is the entire family of God. My stewardship is, first and foremost, my own soul. I know that we are disciples of the same Lord. I know that all of us make mistakes, no matter our position or calling. So when I face an apparent disconnect between my personal understanding of the Lord’s will and way, and the actions of church leaders, I step back and wait. The temptation is to fight, to pick one side and reject the other, Me or Them. But either choice kills faith. We are all on the same side. We all love the same God. Though we have different perspectives, we share common goals and allegiance. We are all about the business of building Zion. I respect the voice of my leaders and I respect the voice of people like Kate and John, all fellow disciples of Christ exploring the edges of mortal understanding.

I cannot tell if the church leaders are making a mistake in this instance. It is not for me to judge. I know that they sometimes do make mistakes, like any of us. They have admitted as much. Mistakes are inevitable for any mortal and we do a great disservice to ourselves and to our leaders if we expect them to be perfect in all things. Idolization is a subtle sin. I will admit that upon hearing the news, I thought of this quote from Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, David and Goliath, about legitimacy:

The principle of legitimacy. . . is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice – that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another. (pp. 207-208) 

I have deliberately avoided the ether-chat this weekend. But I did take two opportunities at church today to speak privately to friends in defense of Kate’s pure heart and motives after a Relief Society lesson on priesthood. One friend responded, “Thank you! You can’t really get the whole story from sound bites.”

So I echo Sandra’s call to love and compassion in her “Spiral” post last Thursday. While my first instinct is heartbreak at such news, because it feels like watching my two best friends fight, I am choosing to stay in Love. I choose to believe that Love will prevail on both “sides”. This is a situation that calls for faith and forgiveness and patience. It draws us all to our knees. And what better place to come together in love and healing than on our knees, united in reverencing the one Lord.

How do you handle conflicts between your conscience and the Church?





About Lisa G.

(Poetry Board, Blog Team) is mother to six and grandmother to ten. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and loves travelling, reading, napping in puddles of sun, strawberries and dark chocolate, and most of all, Jesus.

48 thoughts on “Kate and John

  1. This. This is exactly why my heart has been aching for days.

    My response is usually a quiet rebellion. :) I’ve never been much for open rebellion, but if there is an issue I disagree with, I’m very open about it when people are already talking about it. I don’t like to push the envelope if I feel like I’m by myself. Now I especially feel that way. I think it will be awhile before I am comfortable sharing my real opinions to a priesthood leader.

    1. I’ve just finished reading Samuel the Lamanite chapters in the Book of Mormon. His message to the Nephites is worth considering. The Nephites during this time period did not follow the prophets and Samuel warned them of the consequences of their actions. The church doesn’t change when people try to impose their ideas on church leadership. The church changes when our Father-in-Heaven changes it through His prophet here on earth. When we impose our will on the church leadership, who are we really following?

  2. “the point is that every voice at the table of the Lord should be welcomed, respected, heard”. That is what will happen at the disciplinary council. Kate and Ted will be heard. Once a lesson was given on the subject of disciplinary councils that was called, if I remember right, “Courts of Love”. Everything will turn out as it should.

    1. That is a very hopeful view of a council; I think that very few people have felt respected in such a situation, especially women.

  3. Thank you.

    And how I do handle conflicts between my conscience and the Church? I haven’t figured that out yet, especially since my biggest conflict- one that I think is so glaringly obviously a problem, even if it only affects a relatively small number of people- is dismissed nearly every time I’m brave enough to discuss it with someone.

  4. Two important corrections: John Dehlin’s council has been postponed, and not rescheduled as far as I know. Second, his LGBT activism has *never* been mentioned as a reason for the disciplinary process.

    1. Thank you, Rosalynde. I know almost nothing about John’s case, so like the masses, I have to get my information from the newspapers, which are notoriously unreliable as news sources (ironically).

  5. I wish for all to understand that LDS church disciplinary courts are convened in love for a member. They are to give opportunity for proper repentance to happen in the Lords way. A person who is a true disciple of Christ knows and understands the entire process of repentance and goes there with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. One who refuses to go…or goes in a spirit of rebellion will not benefit from that opportunity. It’s difficult for anyone outside the immediate situation to fully know or understand the nature or magnitude of the sin. We should never try to guess about why a person has been called before a council, because personal matters are just that! We are only to love and not judge.

  6. The Salt Lake Tribune has a copy of the letter John Dehlin was sent. (http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.scribd.com%2Fdoc%2F229280355%2FStake-president-letter-to-John-Dehlin&h=_AQEydGgR) It is clear that John Dehlin has literally all but sent in his exit letter. The Stake Presidency wants to talk to him about where he is at. Nothing is being done to him. And, I should note, it’s not the church sending private communication to the media. I don’t know Kate or what that situation is so I won’t speak to it but in John’s case, the sheep is jumping the fence.

  7. I should add, I don’t mean “He’s jumping the fence, let him go.” I mean he’s not being forced out of the fold by his leadership – he’s leaving and they’re asking him if that’s really what he wants to do.

    1. Thank you for clarifying this. It is, to me, an important distinction to note. The letter was so loving and respectful.

  8. I try to remember that I can authentically sin and be wrong. It keeps me humble. It can happen to anyone. I should be watching out for my own authenticity and make sure I am on the right path. The Lord has told us that the path is narrow and difficult to follow. Here is the rub for me, ‘can I be authentic and stay on the Lord’s path? and which is more important my authenticity or my righteousness? Are they equally important to my Heavenly Father?’ I try for authenticity that keeps me from crooked paths.

  9. What makes me sad is that Kate Kelly and the ordain women movement have, in effect, labeled our church as unequal and are protraying a false image of what we believe and do. I read her op-ed in the guardian and was just sad all over again…She is purposefully portraying the church in a negative light to further her movement, which the majority of church members don’t support. It feels inconsistent to claim to love the church but be so eager to go to the media with every slight. You cannot force change, and you cannot force The Lord, no matter how much your heart and mind might want something. In my own life, and in the history of the church (Martin Harris and the lost BOM pages for one), forcing something that isn’t right has led to a lot of heartache. She has created a very divisive movement within the church, and she shouldn’t be surprised that this has happned. And yes, it all makes me sad but definitely not for the same reasons.

  10. Wow. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your insights, feelings, and, by extension, your testimony. God bless us. Every one.

  11. Thank you Emily. Your comment echoes my sentiments spot on. I think some people’s voices have been heard plenty loud and clear and now is a time for listening.

  12. Thanks so much for this insight. Has Kate explained to you why and how the decision was made to march onto temple square when the church asked not to? It seems to me that is when it changed from merely expressing a point of view to possible opposition to the church. Keeping in mind the concepts in Alma 30 about believing whatever vs. teaching and leading others.

    But the reminder to love, and leave judgment to the authorized church leaders is a message that cannot be repeated enough.

    1. No, I’m not current with the OW plans and decisions, and you may be right about the “change.” That’s why I’m praying for love and forgiveness and openness from all parties, those closely involved as well as the peripheral players.
      I am not happy with division in the kingdom. I just want everyone to feel free to say what they’re called to say and be heard with respect. As some have pointed out, it’s impossible for any of us to know the deeper details of any newsworthy situation, so I thank God I don’t have to judge. As a matter of fact, my job is precisely the opposite: don’t judge.

  13. Dennis: Funny that you mention Samuel the Lamanite. The conclusion I would draw from that story is that, if you believe the Lord has given you a message to deliver, you deliver it, even if that means going outside of convention (Gates are closed? Climb the wall), speaking loudly to those who don’t wish to hear you, and enduring the rocks thrown your way. Whether or not Kate Kelly is right, she’s certainly following Samuel’s methods.

    Lisa: Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to internally handle personal revelation that doesn’t line up perfectly with what I’m taught in Church. I’ve come to essentially the same conclusion, that I need to wait and think and reconcile. I have faith that I can reconcile everything eventually–hopefully in this life (I am impatient!!) but most certainly in the life to come. This can be hard for my perfectionistic personality, because I long to do everything exactly the way that I’ve been taught, but I’m coming to accept that life is messy and that all I can do is my best, and thank God for the atonement.

    My heart is with everyone hurting over this. God loves us all.

  14. I was talking to the Lord about this same thing yesterday. I was lamenting about the disconnect I feel and what we should do and how I should react concerning these people being brought to a disciplinary council. I was complaining that I thought the leadership was wrong in their actions and He responded, “Maybe we should put them on trial for apostacy.” We both had a good laugh. I felt comforted. I think that waiting and being in a place of love is the perfect answer. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Beautiful post. I too choose love. I trust God and my heart to lead me with love, through mortality into eternal love. I choose to associate with people and organizations that exemplify love.

  16. And let’s not forget these 2 individuals can say whatever they want, accurate or inaccurate. Church leaders involved in church courts keep their information confidential. It’s foolishness to believe we have the entire, complete facts when only one side is talking – even if it’s the ones the courts are about.
    One other point – a congregation of another faith in my community has the policy of the congregation choosing their pastors. They have been without one for going on 5 years because they can’t come to a consensus. Can you imagine a church where individual members decide the doctrine? There’s a reason why The Lord has structured His church this way. If these 2 individuals can make decisions for the entire Church, why not the rest of us 15,000,000 members? Why only them? “My house is a house of order, saith The Lord. Thank goodness for His structure and not Kate and John’s. I love Elder Bednar’s analogy of the priesthood being an umbrella that protects and covers all God’s children. Men have been assigned to hold the handle of the umbrella. Personally, I don’t care who Heavenly Father chooses to hold the umbrella. I’m eternally grateful to be blessed to be protected and blessed by it.

  17. I keep thinking of Numbers chapter 12. The Lord and the prophet and the multitude loved Miriam, though her separation for a time was a necessary part of correction for all.

  18. This is why no one in the church will really speak their minds. Women are not listened too, nor are their suggestions taken to heart even if there is a safety issue. If a man raises a suggestion at least someone will listen. Just because someone has the PH doesn’t mean he has common sense. I support the PH ,
    However when you always do what you have always done, you will always get the same result. Maybe some input from women on the way things work would be helpful. We could start with the antiquated building design, have real nurseries and proper children’s church designed with babies and children in mind. Have the services be more engaging and allow for less boredom, repetition and redundency. Yes, everyone, we know this church is true already. No more of the same children’s programs year after year, look the children are tired of doing the same thing by second grade. No need to say more, no one is listening to me anyway.

    1. Sherilyn, I’m listening, too. Can I tell you that I sat on Ward Council for years and my voice and the voice of the 2 other women were heeded frequently and quickly. And I voiced my opinion freely. I don’t know that I ALWAYS felt heard, but I know our EQP NEVER felt heard. You said just because someone has the priesthood doesn’t mean he has common sense. In that same vein, just because someone has ovaries and uterus doesn’t mean she can care for children. Nothing is perfect. I think it is important that we remember that we are not here on earth to make His church run perfectly, but we are here to work out our salvation and that of our family. Yes, we share the gospel and bring others to church, but no where do we proclaim that our church is perfect, just that it is the most correct because we know that ordinances and covenants we make are key in our eternal salvation.

  19. First off, everything I am about to say is done in the kindness of tones. I believe Kate is getting the reaction she wants. When she would not take no for an answer she continued relentlessly. You see this is Gods church an we don’t dictate to Him how we feel it should be. When she continued to go against the leaders after receiving her answer she was apostising and led many with her. Also, there was absolutely no reason to get the media involved and then happily pose as if giving the impression she was incredibly proud of consequences she was facing. I do not admire Kate. God leads His Church. You either follow and accept his teachings or maybe you find yourself happily in a good religion that suits you better.

  20. How do I handle conflicts between my conscience and the Church? I remember the reason why I am here on the earth.

    1. And what is that reason? I can’t quite connect your response to the question, but am seriously interested in how people handle this.

  21. I feel a great sense of sadness though I do not support Kate or John and don’t affiliate with them or their causes. I cannot judge whether or not the discipline taken against them has been initiated with concern and kindness.

    While in theory, all church discipline should be done with charity with great respect and concern for the well-being of the person called to council, it is not always enacted that way. A dear friend of mine was raped as a teenager and disfellowshipped for a year. She did not publicize this action, but shared it with me once in confidence. Frankly, I think it is a miracle that she has remained faithful to the church. We all want church discipline to be charitable and just. But our leaders are imperfect, fallible men who operate as best as they can.

    We all see through the glass darkly, colored from our own sins, weaknesses, and biases. Which is why I don’t think any leader can always be entirely correct and perfect. I also recognize how difficult it is to be a leader and to do what it is right. It is certainly a challenge.

    In the end though, what has broken my heart more than anything, is the reaction I see from those who see this action as perfectly acceptable. While some express sadness and concern. Others are almost gleeful. I see far too often the phrase, if you don’t like it, just go. Those comments make me ashamed to be a fellow member. It also makes me feel like I cannot express concerns or struggles that I experience with anyone.

    1. Well said. I believe there are a lot of us who feel this way. The church has every right, even an obligation, to protect the Saints (and the world) from “evil influences.” What bothers me is that when a member is called to a “disciplinary council” the general assumption is that that person has sinned somehow. You can’t talk about “courts” and “discipline” without the connotation of wrongdoing, the presumption of guilt. You can sugarcoat it with terms like “courts of love” but people still assume an accusation of sin and a need for repentance. I’m just not convinced that is warranted in these cases, though, as I and others have said, we can’t know the full story. So I reiterate my stance: wait in love and faith. I cannot call myself a Christian if I jump to judgment in a situation where I have no right to judge.

      1. I agree with your comment about not jumping to judgement. I will leave that up to the leaders. The leaders who judge will be held accountable to God for their judgement. I can’t judge either Kate and John, OR their leaders who have called for the councils.

        I think it is wrong for any of us to do so. We may or may not like how these two individuals expressed themselves against the teachings of the church. We may approve or disapprove of the actions of their local leaders, but ultimately, we aren’t there. We don’t have jurisdiction in either situation.

  22. Cookies has it right. Kelly has played the victim to gain a following. Does anyone know why she is moving to Kenya this summer? Kelly and Dehlin were on Utah Public Radio yesterday and he said something that really showed who he was. Taking about Mormonism: “it’s as much cultural as it is religion”. We always say “faith without works is dead”, but the reverse is the same. “Works without faith is dead”.

    1. Doorain, it seems as though you disagree with Dehlin’s quote. If so, how so?

      I don’t know the specifics of Kenya, but Kate is an international human rights lawyer, so my guess is it’s about work. She and her husband spent their months-long honeymoon traveling and “saving the world”, as her mom termed it. I thought that was cool.

  23. One thing that drives me right up the wall is when it is assumed that Kate Kelly is the voice for the women in this church. She is NOT. She certainly does not represent me. And for the record, my voice HAS been heard in my ward and stake. I have been treated with kindness and respect and many of my suggestions have been acted upon–not ALL of them but then I am not the only person in my stake with needs. The idea that Kate Kelly knows better than God’s called prophet is another hot button for me. Who called her? Who called him? Along with that is of course the issue of gender. In this church I have known excellent priesthood holders and not so excellent ones. Some of the finest women I know are members as are some of the most selfish women I know. I am sad that for these two individuals (Kate and John) their choices have led them to this point, but do they honestly think God is such a milquetoast that He will let His children do and say anything they want and still claim to be members in good standing?

    1. Ana, I understand where you are coming from. I think it has been said over and over again the OW doesn’t represent the majority views of women within the church. I understand how hard it is when you feel secure with your prescribed roles and feel that is threatened by someone who tells you that you shouldn’t feel secure. I am thrilled that you have had experiences of being heard and respected. I also appreciate the nuance of your experience recognizing times when that wasn’t always the case.

      Kate Kelly certainly doesn’t represent my views, but I feel she does capture a certain element of the experience of feeling marginalized, misunderstood, and belittled. All the talks over time about LDS women being incredible and women having great moral influence really don’t mean that much when that same influence is denied, belittled, or ignored. I think we as a church are striving to do better. But still we all have room to grow.

  24. Anon, I appreciate your peace making words. However, I am not troubled because I feel that my role (which you are right, I am very secure in) is being challenged. I am troubled because I see in this an attack on the Kingdom of God. If Kate really believes in the priesthood that she says she wants, why does she not respect the authorized channels that it comes from? Why does it matter whether she holds it or not? Does she believe God restored His church or not? Does she believe it is headed by (on earth) a living prophet or not? If she doesn’t, why does she care about the priesthood? If she does, why is she agitating like she is? Outside attacks on the church bother me a whole lot less than when they come from people who claim to be members in good faith. It is disingenuous at best, traitorous at worst.

  25. From what I’ve heard of Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman, all claim to be following their inspiration–their personal voice of revelation. Do we in the church allow everyone the privilege of receiving personal revelation and really mean it, or is it just lip service to the idea? With as many different people and perspectives as there are out there, it makes sense that the spirit gives us different missions.

    I, for one, am going to grant these three individuals the respect of believing that they are following their individual paths to Christ. If someone claims inspiration, as a Mormon, I respect that.

  26. Since when does individual revelation apply to the entire church? I thought (and know – through personal revelation) that revelation for the Church comes through the Lord’s prophet.
    Again – if Kate can receive revelation that applies to the entire church, so can every other member. Can someone logically explain how that works? 1 prophet receiving revelation for the Savior’s church I get. 15,000,000 I don’t get how that works. A significant difference besides the obvious between her and the Lord’s prophets? Prophets ask the Lord’s will on issues. She DEMANDS it to be her way.

    1. She’s not claiming to receive revelation for the church. She’s asking the prophet to petition the Lord. Asking for him to receive the revelation with a capital R.

      Women didn’t pray in conference until 2013 because no one thought to ask. She’s following Pres. Hinckley’s word’s that the women of the church don’t have the priesthood, because ‘they’re not agitating for it.’ She’s asking for the discussion to happen, but I haven’t heard even one little tiny thing that sounds like she’s claiming church-wide inspiration.

      But she does claim that the actions she’s taken have been inspiration. That I respect.

  27. I recently read a blog entry that expressed much of what I have felt after reading and listening to people’s comments on Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. If you haven’t read it yet you can find it here…http://www.gregtrimble.com/quit-acting-like-christ-was-accepting-of-everyone-and-everything

    Something Greg T. said that I truly believe…”When we quit trying to align our wills with God, and start trying to get God to align His will with ours…that is when we start to lose our way. ” So many are pulling at the bit…pushing the limits…“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:2, 5, 7). Hopefully we listen to the voice of warning and are quick to embrace the Spirit of truth.

  28. If Kate’s intention was to simply start a dialogue about women obtaining the Priesthood, then naming her (organized and aggressive) movement “Ordain Women” was a bit, um, misleading.

    Your sympathy for your friend is admirable, but does not lessen the weight of her actions nor the severity of their consequences. I’m not terribly concerned about Kate’s spiritual struggle–that’s between her and the Lord–but I am concerned about the many well-meaning women she pulled down with her. Pleasant words like “tolerance,” “equality” or (in the case of this post) “love” do not make wrong actions right. Kate and her followers belittled the very Priesthood they coveted and embarrassed the very church–and gospel–that has given them (and each one of us) everything. Funny how members wax poetic about their love for “the gospel” but can’t wait to criticize the church that gave it to them. Apparently Christ’s gospel is good enough for some of us, but His church is not.

    It did not take courage to do what this woman did; it took belligerence. It takes courage to stand as an unpopular, out-of-fashion, socially polarized witness of not only Christ, but the LDS church that bears His name–and His teachings, yes, even the ones we do not personally enjoy. You will be laughed at for that “ignorant” position far more than Kate will for her stylish and modern approach to Mormonism.

    Unless we are referring to a public school or an ailing neighborhood, we do not need to “stay and make it better.” This is Christ’s church, not Kate’s; we need to stay and make ourselves better.

  29. Jennifer-

    I love your line “we need to stay and make ourselves better.”

    I would only add one thing to it- let us stay and make each other better.

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