Most of the people who read this blog are Mormon, and thus probably aware of current events. If not, please read the NY Times Article and Deseret News article before reading the below, so you know what I'm talking about. Also, this post is mostly about Mormons, by a Mormon, therefore, I apologize for a lot of Mormon-y lingo that I probably won't take the time to explain. I also apologize for the length of this post - it is long, rambling, and incoherent. And, last of the trio of apologies, I am sorry if I offend you, as I am sure to in some way, given the very sensitive and divisive nature of this topic. My intent is to urge all to remain in the wonderful tent of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which I believe is found in its fullness in the Mormon church.
There's an interesting little phrase in the Book of Mormon, when the prophet Alma is speaking to his son Corianton. Alma starts the chapter with insight into his son's struggles: "...I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead" (Alma 40:1). In other words, he recognizes his son is troubled about an aspect of church doctrine that he doesn't fully understand. Alma doesn't accuse the son of lack of faith just for being troubled about an issue, instead, he acknowledges this worry, and talks to Corianton about it, addressing his concerns.
Alma then goes on to explain, in great detail, the doctrine, while acknowledging that there is much that he doesn't fully understand. He states in verse 5 of the chapter that he doesn't know whether there is one time for the resurrection or many and he acknowledges in verses 19 and 21 that he cannot say the timing of certain aspects of the resurrection. But the phrase that I really want to talk about is in verse 20: "...behold, I give it as my opinion..." In other words, this is Alma, the prophet for the entire church, voicing his OPINION on an aspect of church doctrine. He acknowledges he could be wrong (although later events would prove him right). I am grateful for that example of humility by a prophet. I think it shows that Alma is willing to accept whatever the will of the Lord is.
I give it as my opinion that, someday, women will hold the priesthood. The history of the priesthood holders of God has been one of gradual expansion (in Abraham's time, it was limited to a select few, in Israelite times, only the tribe of Levi exercised the priesthood, and for part of the 1800's and first 3/4ths of the 1900's, only white males exercised the priesthood, but those restrictions fell away and now all worthy males hold the priesthood). We are a church that believes that "...God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." The extension of the priesthood is only based on my understanding, and I may be wrong. The thing is, even if I'm wrong, I'm staying in the church, because I believe the church and gospel is true. Also, I'm not the prophet, and I don't get to receive revelation for the church. I have faith that if and when that day comes, those who lead the church will be open to receiving that revelation and making it known (Note: I DO NOT mean that those who disagree with me on these points are unfaithful or wrong, again, I merely give these points as my opinion).
Chieko Okazaki has a quote that I think applies to both Kate Kelly and those participating in her disciplinary council: "In principles, great clarity; in practices, great charity." The principle is that God loves all his children, male and female. In practice, that means we should exercise the maximum possible charity for our sister, Kate Kelly. She's a beloved daughter of God who's doing what she thinks is right. She is devastated and hurt by the possibility of excommunication. We should also have the maximum amount of charity for her Bishop, her Stake President, and all those involved in the disciplinary process, instead of ascribing terrible motives to them for their actions.
I've been a member of the church for my whole life, and I've had many Bishops. As I've thought about this process, I've thought about my former seminary teacher who also served as our Bishop at one point, and who thought (and probably still thinks) I was a crazy liberal loon. I think I would trust even him to hear me out and listen to my side. Church leaders, in my experience, try to do the right thing and really do seek to know the will of the Lord. However, I acknowledge that this is not everyone's experience, and Church leaders are only human, and make mistakes.
If you're reading this, and considering leaving the church, I am trying to feel your pain - I acknowledge that this has been hurtful to you in ways that I probably don't understand. Additionally, come next week, it's possible that Kate Kelly's Church Disciplinary Council will make a decision that is not right (whatever the "right" decision is), but please, please, please don't leave the church over it. The church and the gospel still need you.
Please stay. Stay in the church, because we need your doubts and your fears. We need you to raise hard questions without easy answers. We need to you point out inequalities that bother you, even if they don't bother others. We need your perspective and your testimony. Forgive us our shortcomings and lack of understanding. Likewise, you need the church. You need us to help you and strengthen you and serve you. You need us to learn from our perspective and testimony. We all need each other. Please don't leave us.
That last paragraph came out as an us vs. them, but it's not. We are a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood who should love each other. We need more love, in my opinion.
Some other random thoughts I've had while thinking about and writing this post:
- I don't get to judge Kate Kelly. I am called to love her and seek to understand her, and all my other brothers and sisters who struggle with issues related to women and the priesthood (or any other church doctrine, for that matter). However, bishops are called as "Judges in Israel." They are given keys and discernment to try to do what is best for the individual. There is nothing more serious than a church court, and I hope people take it as seriously as it deserves.
- Where Sister Kelly may have gone astray, in my mind, is in stating that the only way to fix the problems she perceives in the church is through women's ordination. Again, I don't get to judge her because I don't know all the facts and it's not my responsibility. I believe there is nothing wrong with expressing our doubts, and sharing them. It's a fine and porous line between expressing genuine doubts while being true to yourself and taking upon yourself the responsibility to receive revelation for the whole church on what "must" happen. Again, I'm not judging which side of the line Sister Kelly is on, merely expressing my belief that there is such a line. As stated above, I believe maximum charity and compassion should be extended by those whose responsibility it is to be a judge in Israel.
- Some of the language and tactics of the Ordain Women movement trouble me personally, and I don't personally feel comfortable with these terms and tactics. I think some of the language that is used is divisive and unnecessarily recriminatory. Calling people who disagree with you names can only make them defensive and less likely to listen to you, even if you have valid points to make. I think there are many church cultural practices that, when pointed out to people and explained why these are hurtful, will seem unfair, and we can do things at the local level in our wards and stakes to address these points. Cultural change requires all of us to see others kindly and with love.
- I am troubled by posts like this, which seek to make OW supporters the "other" who are hypocrites crying crocodile tears. See my previous post about seeing things from their perspective here.
- So far the best posts I have seen on this topic are here and here. These posts are part of the reason I stay in the church. It causes me much sorrow to read about the pain of others who are struggling - I love you, and I pray for you to feel the peace that passeth all understanding. Pray for me, that I might know how to love you and help you, because I truly want to.