Saturday, July 5, 2014

What exactly have we learned by "sad experience"?

Sincere question/concern without the patience of working on the right "tone":

What is the right way to respectfully approach our leaders if we have a disagreement or misunderstanding or questions/concerns that seem not to have any good answers? What if we have the audacity to suggest they might have done something "wrong"?

Sure, tone matters, but what we normally get is just a lot of “never criticize!” talk, and this in spite of the fact that "we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." D&C 121:39.

One woman can be excommunicated because one bishopric says she should be. Period. There is no due process. There is no impartial committee with women included that can make the final disciplinary decision after a bishop makes a recommendation. There is no requirement of unanimity of the bishopric either. Even on the stake level (where any disciplinary case involving a man holding the high priesthood are held) an excommunication cannot be vetoed by any number of the high council--the stake president can unilaterally make the decision himself.

Speaking of the High Council, is there any reason why women cannot serve on that council? If priesthood is required, why can't women serve under the direction of the keys of the stake president-just as the men on the High Council do-and similar to how women perform temple ordinances under the direction of the temple president's keys?

The sad truth is that a bishop can change from taking a pastoral approach to a disciplinary approach in the blink of an eye. And his decision will be upheld worldwide in the church. One church member serving in that one calling represents the entire Church since his decision of excommunication is like a currency that is accepted worldwide.

Technically there is an appeals process but I don't know of any case where an excommunication has been overturned by the First Presidency. It seems as though it is simply assumed that the local leaders who are closest to the situation know best. That is a scary prospect if excommunication is used in cases where true repentance is not even an issue.

Let me be clear: excommunication is and can be a proper part of the repentance process in serious cases (for example, murder or incest come to mind), and I know several people who have commented to me that their excommunication was necessary and they are now members in good standing. So I'm not arguing against excommunication, but when you lump in "conduct unbecoming of a church member" this can include a wide range of interpretation such as a difference of opinion or disagreeing with a church leader in public. Nobody in their right mind should agree that those examples deserve the same consequences.

Ideally Seers would see that excommunication is not the answer in cases where deep and serious sin has not occurred. There are many other lesser consequences that could be more appropriate. In Kate Kelly's case, whatever "crime" was committed (and I know that is debatable, since "conduct unbecoming of church members" is subjective in the extreme and there is no impartial jury, and some people are not as lucky as others in the unfortunate reality of ecclesiastical roulette) in my view the crime does not even come close to matching the punishment.

No one single person can ever know all the details, but from all the details that have been made known/public, I think that excommunication was wrong for Kate Kelly. Even if she deliberately tried (and I don't believe she did) to embarrass the church or church leaders or (heaven forbid) disobey them (since apparently some members see that as the most important "commandment", not to say anything of obeying one's own conscience and/or obeying principles over persons) it still would not be the right solution. It does more harm to the Church, whether we define the Church as an institution or as the people who make up the body of Christ.

In my mind, if I had more faith or trust or hope in church leaders always doing the right thing (ie: if I ignored D&C 121:39), the excommunication should have never taken place, even if she still lived in the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical leaders that made the decision (which she didn't) or at least it would have been overturned by leaders higher up in the hierarchy.

Alas, it seems that local actions are most always sustained in order to show the unanimity of the Good ol' Boys Club priesthood leadership.


Clean Cut said...

Yes, I am venting here. I am not the only one frustrated with the whole ordeal. And I also know that I will have offended a lot of people with the strike out in the final line. But it is the truth that only men currently hold priesthood offices.

If the DMV is the only government authority to issue licenses and traditionally they have only hired men, I will respect a woman's decision if she doesn't want to work at the DMV, but I can't get over the fact that I feel she has been prohibited from even having the agency of making that decision because she was born female.

Such is the case in a female prohibition on priesthood offices. It doesn't resonate with me as "divinely decreed" any more than discrimination and segregation were seen at one time as "divinely decreed".

ji said...

It is clear you are very angry about Kate Kelly's excommunication. You and I will disagree in thinking the excommunication was or was not appropriate, and both of us only know what we can read on the internet (I suppose). But the decision was made in the right way, by the right man.

Yes, only men hold priesthood offices. How wonderful it is that our God has called all men in the church to hold the priesthood, rather than just a few. I always try to give thanks for what has been given, not to begrudge what hasn't been given.

There is good advice in Pres. Packer's April 2011 general conference address. I recommend it for you. Not to change the excommunication outcome, but for an important perspective. It is at

Clean Cut said...

Reading Armand Mauss's memoir and sometimes feeling like I'm reading my own thoughts:

"My subsequent years in the Walnut Creek bishopric give me many additional experiences with the same predicament: how to make the church work as intended despite local anomalies and individual failings among leaders and members. In the process, I developed a healthy respect for certain organizational realities and a wariness about the unquestioning implementation of policies handed down from on high to deal with local needs and circumstances. I was already beginning to see that perhaps I was not the kind of unquestioning "good soldier" who would rise steadily in the church's hierarchy. Yet from then until now, I have always thought of myself as loyal to the church and have never ceased wishing for it success."

Page 33

Clean Cut said...

I suppose now would be a good time to remind myself of three great insights my wife helped me to recognize and which I still need to work on:

1) Do not let your sense of justice override showing and having mercy

2) Don't be the kind of teacher that provides all the answers before anyone's even asking the questions.

3) Be grateful and do not hold hostage the blessings of progress that have already occurred while holding out for the big changes of the future.

Clean Cut said...

Even if someone *was* angry, their arguments are not any less valid. Case in point:

"Kate Kelly and You - Yes, You."

Clean Cut said...

"Priesthood is more than just a mystical power or a mandate to serve. In the church, Priesthood is governance. Priesthood is a right to sit in councils and make decisions that will affect entire wards, and even the church itself. Priesthood determines who can speak at church and who cannot. Who holds specific callings and who does not. Where budget is allocated and where it is not. Who is excommunicated for dissent and who is not. The reason I support Ordain Women is not because I believe women need priesthood to access the power of God. That power is already available to everyone through faith. But priesthood means the ability to have a voice, to be heard, to make decisions. Priesthood is agency. Any suggestion that women have as much agency in practical church affairs is simply inane, not worth taking seriously. That is why women need the priesthood--because priesthood matters. It is a hegemonic power structure integral to how the church functions, yet over half of the membership is systematically excluded from it."

Anonymous said...

You weren't there. You don't hold the keys. Your opinion is therefore irrelevant.

Clean Cut said...

Irrelevant to the outcome of that case, sure. But completely irrelevant? In your dreams.

Clean Cut said...

If I were smarter, I would have separated the specific case in Virginia from this post, which is really about whether excommunication as a "punishment" is the best option for certain "crimes".

Since I did not do that, perhaps any future critique can address some of my other (relevant) points.

Trevor said...

If excommunication is extremely unlikely to "help" the target (which is surely the case with Kate Kelly), then its only other purpose could be an attempt to protect the church.

But what if that excommunicant is far worse as an enemy outside the church than as an agitant inside?

So far though, Kate Kelly is telling people to stay in the church. But I think any possible good her leaders perceive will result, however flimsy, is going to be far outweighed by the collateral damage suffered by people like you and me.