From the Writer’s Desk: LDS Church, Ordain Women Must Both Look Inward

816px-Salt_Lake_Temple,_Utah_-_Sept_2004-2

UPC Researcher - Dave McGee
UPC Researcher – Dave McGee

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that on Sunday two important and related events happened within the LDS Church.

The first is that the founder and leader of the Ordain Woman movement, Kate Kelly, was facing a church disciplinary council that was convened to decide her future participation within the LDS church. The second was that vigils were held in support of Kelly, along with others facing Church discipline, either formal or informal.

In all, 50 vigils took place around the world.

The disciplinary council reviewing Kelly’s case had the power to do anything, ranging from absolutely nothing, to a slight admonishment, to full excommunication.

The council chose excommunication.

Excommunication effectively bars Kelly from any participation for at least one year in any church activities aside from simply showing up on Sundays and sitting quietly, which ironically seems to be what the church today wishes of all its members.

In 1978, Elder Cannon, who was the Young Woman’s president at the time, said in an Ensign article that “When the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over.” This has become a tagline for both sides of the Ordain Woman debate about whether or not discussion on the topic of women holding the priesthood is allowed within the LDS Church beyond canned talks and discussions that come out of church handbooks or lesson books.

The first time this sentiment was found written down was in the Home Teachers Guide of 1945. Supporters of the Ordain Woman movement, along with other reform movements within the LDS faith, use this quote to say “when the leaders speak, thinking is done.”

When people inside and outside the church expressed concern over this apparently dictatorial policy, then President of the LDS Church, George Albert Smith, wrote a letter that contained this passage “I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel.”

For the last decade there has been what has been called “The Mormon Moment”. Many point to the LDS Church as a uniquely American institution. The LDS Church is the only major worldwide church that has its roots stemming straight from the American psyche of egalitarianism and penchant for challenging authority.

This dedication to challenging authority and questioning for oneself can be found in many aspects of the LDS faith. From lessons given to young children that each member can receive personal revelation, to the practice of “sustaining” or showing support for a newly appointed leader from among the lay congregation.

[pullquote]I use “men” and “man” purposefully over the more politically correct “human” or “person,”  because when looking at the church hierarchy, every position of power is held by a man. [/pullquote]Now while many may disagree; I always took this as a vote of confidence in the new member. And it was always a beautiful reminder to me that all members, including leadership, were no more then men. This means they came with all of the fallibility that every man has.

I use “men” and “man” purposefully over the more politically correct “human” or “person,”  because when looking at the church hierarchy, every position of power is held by a man.

Some will point to the Relief Society (a group within the church originally dedicated to helping those in need) as an example of a group that is not male run. Unfortunately, Relief Society has little real power in determining its own budget or even its own leadership.

This article is not meant to be a history of dissent within the church, for there are thousands of books and articles along these lines. I want to address the Ordain Woman’s movement and how it fits into the greater debate of the Church’s future and each member’s role within it.

On Sunday, as a group of three men were deciding Kelly’s fate some 3,000 miles from where she currently lives, about 250 people gathered in City Creek Park near the Salt Lake City Temple and Church Office Building.

From there they walked onto church property and began to speak. Many began their remarks with “I will not be silenced,” followed by why or which discussions members felt the LDS Church was stifling.

While I agree with the idea of debate and any group working together for the betterment of all members, I was struck by a few thoughts, the most prominent of which was that both the Church and the Ordain Woman’s movement had effectively painted themselves into a corner.

LDS leadership could now not give in without losing face by appearing to give into demands, while Ordain Woman could not now back down without appearing as if they had caved to pressure from its opponents within the Church – a pressure that the Church insists comes only from local leadership – despite there being the appearance of coordination from above.

This coordination, or rather the appearance of coordination, is the two high profile warnings issued by the Church; one to Kelly and the other to John Dehlin, who runs the popular website Mormon Stories and has advocated for greater acceptance of homosexuality within the LDS Church. What makes these warnings particularly suspect is that they come so close together.

[pullquote]It is stretching the limits of credibility to think that two separate local church leaders came to the same conclusion at the same time [/pullquote]It is stretching the limits of credibility to think that two separate local church leaders came to the same conclusion at the same time, while being separated by a continent.

Another thought I had was one which many members who oppose the Ordain Women’s movement have expressed; while many members of the crowd I observed and know personally are faithful members of the LDS faith, many others were not or at least did not appear to be.

The final observation was that of personal belief.

I understand the desire to help an organization you love grow and evolve into something better, but at the same time you have to live by what you preach. This goes for both sides. If you preach love, tolerance and acceptance, you have to show love, tolerance and acceptance for those who disagree. If you preach that all people have the right to choose who and how they associate with other people, you have to allow them to do so. It is hypocritical for both sides to insist that they only want what is best for the other, and at the same time condemn the other for being wrong. But that is the problem with faith and personal revelation. You only know what you know, and sometimes you can be blinded by desires that perhaps may not reflect reality.

[pullquote]In our society, individuals have the right to associate with any group they choose, though that right comes at a cost.[/pullquote]Overall I support what the Ordain Women movement is trying to accomplish. The Church, in my view, will eventually have to loosen its stance not only on women’s full participation, but also that of many other social issues. And for those changes the church is unique in it beliefs by having what they term a living “prophet, seer, and revelator” who also is human with everything that being human implies.

In our society, individuals have the right to associate with any group they choose, though that right comes at a cost. And just as individuals have the right of association, groups have the right of disassociation with individuals who disagree. That is the true price of free agency.

From The Writer’s Desk is a feature from Utah Political Capitol that gives our writers an opportunity to express their opinions on the events of the day. Writer Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the opinions of UPC or its staff.

4 Replies to “From the Writer’s Desk: LDS Church, Ordain Women Must Both Look Inward

  1. Finally a writer who truly DOES understand the topic, despite what above commentators may say (e.g., “hogwash”).

  2. It seems ironic that OW seeks an answer from President Monson on the subject of the ordination of women to the priesthood, yet the author calls out Elder [sic] Cannon for saying, “When the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over.” Does OW believe in prophets and seek to follow the counsel of prophets, or only when the answer aligns with their demands?

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