Thursday, June 12, 2014

Membership denied! Mormons that dared to think differently...

I haven't posted recently due to how busy I've been with work, kids, activities and life. These silly things just keep getting in the way of my blogging dagnabit. We've had a little fun intermixed as well.

So if you haven't heard, there are some excommunications or disciplinary councils likely to convene in the near future if they don't resign their membership of some high profile members of the LDS faith, specifically Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Alan Rock Waterman. Kate Kelly is founder of the Ordain Women organization, John Dehlin of the Mormon Stories podcast as well as LGBT ally and advocate, and Rock Waterman of the Pure Mormonism blog (beware the bloggers!). Of course there are likely others, just not as high profile that I'm aware of currently (Lori Burkman was threatened). 

I only know bits and pieces of what their experience has been, but the main issue is that they are being charged with apostasy. Something I've recently been accused of as well by people I've known for many years, some family, and people I don't know that I've had interactions with through blogs or Facebook. I find it an interesting phenomenon that members become so concerned a) about the righteousness or lack thereof of other members, and b) that members that question have fallen into apostasy because everything spoken by leadership is always the word of God. Maybe I'm just a private and introverted fellow by nature, but I have never felt the need to tell others they worship in a manner inferior to me or that is unapproved by the hierarchy of the church. I have enough worries to work out my own salvation that I find it amusing I'd need to tell others they're going about it the wrong way. Isn't it better to give people the benefit of the doubt as we don't know their life journey and the challenges they face? And regarding b, a close examination of our history and religious history in general shows that men of God on Earth can and do make mistakes. Otherwise we'd be The Church of Jesus ChristS of Latter Day Saints.

Here are my concerns with the church excommunicating these good people. I'm not sure that leaders logically think these things through. We're a religion that believes in strong families and the gospel of Jesus Christ, or at least make this claim. So if I'm modeling the church's behavior, it's perfectly acceptable to kick out a member of my family that isn't conforming to my wishes and standards. If I, say, have a gay son, then I should kick him out, disavow him, and make him feel as if there is no place for him if he can't live my high standards and believe in my God approved doctrines. How could he not understand that this reflects on my family? What about others that might think it's ok to act on being gay? So if you deviate in thought or deed, we will throw you out. At least, if you do it publicly. Is this the family model we should emulate? Since I'm advocating for LGBT rights and equal marriage, my parents and siblings should disown me and not allow me to be part of the tribe? Is it any wonder there's such a high homeless and suicide rate in the Mormon culture of LGBT children 'excommunicated' from their families until they can change their thinking and get it right? The church alone determines who is worthy of our advocacy and in what manner? Is that what Christ would do? Purge those who act or think differently? You can't on one hand say “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach.” — Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, quoted from the LDS website and then boot those who might publicly think differently. Does that quote even hold any weight when someone like John Dehlin who has done such great work in researching and understanding LGBT issues within the Mormon culture is thrown out? What are you telling a great populace of the church that has received so much help to work out their thoughts and concerns when there is no such outlet within the church or is expressly discouraged by the church to discuss and work through these matters?

Freedom of religion for the church, not the members. The church is actively involved in legal battles to fight for freedom of religion. I'm not all that politically minded. I don't have the stomach for it most of the time, but I try to be well informed. I try to understand the issues. So the church is spending and using their lawyers and resources to pursue these freedom of religion battles. What about freedom WITHIN religion? The church desires all outside of our religion to respect us and our beliefs and how we want to exercise our religion. However, those within the religion must comply and not speak out publicly about anything contrary to whatever is church approved or face excommunication? Why is it so evil to have a doubt, diversity of thought, a dissenting voice, or intellectual thoughts? Why do we need to quash these people who are working out their salvation, figuring out their path, trying to understand the issues, and talking about them with others? They are told to resolve these issues and concerns with local leaders in private. Don't be public. Why? What are we afraid of? What's the value of this Mormon community of people with rich and diverse backgrounds and experiences if you aren't to talk among yourselves and work through them together? Why diminish them and not use their unique thoughts and talents? Are the only talents valued for the church those that are able to better manage a corporate business structure and develop methods and spiffy PR campaigns to bring more tithe paying members into the fold? 

And what if they do take it up with their local leaders? In my experience the counsel will be the standard study your scriptures, pray, fast, serve more, go to church, bear your testimony. And then there will be a testimony of if you do these things it will make you happier because you look unhappy (yes, a bishop actually told me that). Ok, doing all that is what got me here to this point already. So if it can't be resolved on a local leader level, then what? As the founder of Ordain Women, Kate Kelly was going to get an answer from her local leaders? Isn't the ordination of women to the priesthood something that would need some resolution from a higher authority, which I think is the whole point? But instead of meeting with them, they meet with Mormon Women Stand that was in existence for two months and trot out slick marketing to say 'see! we meet with women about their concerns!'. Really? This is an organization that was organized to say we don't think like Ordain Women, we think like you. So what you really said with meeting MWS was that we meet with women that think like we do and don't bring us any uncomfortable issues. 

What do we desire of our church? A community of robots? Are we now a widget manufacturing corporation where everyone must think, speak, and act alike? We must pretend there are no doubts or concerns to be delved into with any meaning? We should suppress our thoughts and feelings because they aren't valid? My heart goes out to all those facing these charges. Your voices are important and valued among many of us who share these same struggles. 

It seems to me the church uses a nail where some of that Christlike love and compassion would be the best medicine. Ironic, isn't it?


Carla Hoffman said...

Where are we headed as a church community, Greg?! You raise smart and thoughtful questions; I suspect the Church is too busy protecting its image to ponder questions.

VGAHQ said...

well said, this would be great from a pulpit!

K*8*E said...

Uncle Greg-

Thanks for your thoughts and words, I loved reading them, and all I can say is, you rock!


Ry and I said...

Uncle Greg, the church explained why they were possibly in danger of excommunication and it wasn't because they had questions or feelings that differed from the Church's doctrines. It was because they were leading many others away from the church's doctrines in their quest for answers. In our premortal life, our Heavenly Father finally drew a line when Satan was leading many if His children away from His plan, despite the initial possible good intentions of Lucifer. While these good people can't be compared to Satan himself, the concept can be compared, We are allowed to ask questions and find answers, but until the answers come, we need to wait for the Lord's timing and work on our own salvation.

Greg said...

Yes Brandi, I saw the church PR department response. The troubling thing to me using your analogy of the pre mortal life, is that satan was kicked out because he wanted to usurp everyone of their free agency. He wanted everyone saying the same thing, doing the same thing, acting the same. Not unlike what the church is doing with threats of disciplinary councils unless you bend to our will. Christ didn't do this. He engaged. Listened. Loved. Welcomed. Invited. But never turned away. The PR department says it's ok to ask questions, blog, etc. as long as it's asked with the right tone, not publicly, doesn't cause people to question their faith, or heaven forbid become organized. If the church has the truth, then what's to fear? John and Kate weren't leading others away. People have a choice. They filled a void that exists. In John's case, people are trying to understand the difficult history of the church. He merely provided a medium for it. Technology has allowed that, not John Dehlin. In Kate's case, she has legitimate and valid points about women holding the priesthood and that doesn't get resolved through her bishop as Emma Smith can attest to in asking Joseph about tobacco. Kate is merely asking for the question to be asked. Could it be possible the Lord's timing is brought about with the assistance of other visionary people? That others outside the brethren might have ideas, thoughts, gifts, abilities? Is it possible that this would help the brethren and others clarify and better understand issues? Maybe Kate 'agitates', just as president Hinckley indicated when asked about women's ordination? Is it possible this is one way they are working on their own salvation is to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort? Who am I to judge how they or anyone is working on their salvation?

Guy said...

Yes, definitely ironic, Greg. I really enjoyed reading your post and find it sadly even more relevant today given recent developments regarding church discipline for apostasy. Blog on!