Kate Kelly is a woman who started a group with a goal: to encourage the 12 apostles of the church to pray about women having the priesthood. She’s a believing Mormon. The church is excommunicating her for apostasy unless she conforms and distances herself from Ordain Women, the organization which she founded. It appears that believing in your heart that women should have the priesthood, and acting on that belief, is now punishable by having all your eternal blessings stripped from you and being shunned by your LDS faith community.
John Dehlin is a man who saw individuals and families being ripped apart and decided to help. He saw that the church provides almost no resources to individuals with legitimate doubts and questions. He realized there were “lost sheep” so to speak, in the church who were suffering, feeling outcast, and he left the neinty-and-nine and went and sought after those lost sheep to reassure them that life still had meaning despite their doubts, despite their spouse’s disaffection with the church, or despite their realization that they are gay. He sought to carve out a space in the church for members who don’t quite fit the mold. He tried to prevent suicides and unnecessary divorces for these members who feel scorned by their faith community and abandoned by their God. John is being excommunicated for apostasy.
John played a huge role in my life when my husband, Ricardo, left the church. I cannot describe the pain and confusion that event brought into my life. Ricardo and I started listening to Mormon Stories podcasts. They gave me hope that my mixed-faith marriage could work–that I didn’t have to chose my husband or my church, that I could have both. The podcasts gave me a safe place to explore my doubts and questions. We met John at a Mormon Stories conference in Denver. He was so validating for both Ricardo and I. He understood Ricardo’s desire to leave the church and his feeling betrayed by the church’s lies. He also understood my pain and my deep attachment to LDS beliefs and community. John strengthened my marriage at a time when the LDS church was tearing it apart by offering me next to no resources on how to make a mixed faith marriage work and offering me no comfort about my spouse’s disaffection. John’s doubts are legitimate ones, and his desire to maintain his connection to the church is legitimate as well.
What does it say about the Mormon church when the church wants people like John and Kate out? Can I believe President Uctdorf when he tells me there is room for people like me in the church?
I’m a Mormon. I believe there is no good reason women in the LDS church in 2014 shouldn’t have the priesthood, and I hope leaders will someday see this. I support Ordain Women and their peaceful petition for church leaders to pray about this issue. I’m a Mormon still. I support marriage equality. A friend once approached me, asking me if I would teach her Spanish so she could better communicate with her partner’s family in Guatemala. They had been together for 19 years. Who am I to say her relationship is less legitimate than my own? The church can allow what marriages they allow, but on a national level, I support marriage equality and I think that is none of the church’s business. I’m still a Mormon. I believe in eternal families. I believe in prayer. I hold onto hope still that there is truth in most of the church’s teachings. There are lots of days I count myself as a believer. Many days I am certainly more of a doubter. But that is my journey, and I feel I should be free to believe as I can and participate in the church as I feel comfortable.
In my opinion, the church needs to get out of the business of judgement, and invest more in the business of loving our neighbors. They should get out of the business of politics and into the business of feeding the lost sheep.
I stand with John and Kate, but mostly I just weep with them.
“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”
— Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:340.