Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Additional Thoughts on Ordain Women and Religion

Here I go again with the religious stuff....

Two days ago the LDS Church announced that Kate Kelly was excommunicated for her role in the Ordain Women movement. She is no longer a member in good standing and has to wait a year for a re-evaluation of her repentance. This means she must abandon her Ordain Women movement if she wants to be re-baptized in the church next year. 

Now that the verdict is in, I wanted to give an update and also share some additional thoughts on the situation and religion in general. 

There are many opinions flying around as to whether she deserved to be excommunicated and to whether this was a good or bad decision by the church. It's hard to know. Kate Kelly knew what she was doing. She knew that she was openly opposing the church's doctrine. It's hard to say if this qualifies completely as apostasy. I understand apostasy to mean denouncing the religion, which she has not done. But nonetheless, she is denouncing one of its doctrines (although Ally Isom, a church representative featured on RadioWest, which I linked in my last post, was very vague on whether a male-only priesthood is actual written LDS doctrine). 

Time will tell if this was a good or bad decision by the church. Some members agree with the decision while others do not. But Kate Kelly and other believers in the Ordain Women movement should not be discouraged. What Kate Kelly has started is no different than what happened leading up to the change in LDS doctrine allowing black men to obtain the priesthood. There were protests on Temple Square and leaders of those protests were excommunicated. But the movement did not bow, and eventually there was a change. There's more info here, but also a quick Google search brings up many sources of information about protests leading up to the 1978 revelation that blacks could receive the priesthood.

One difference between the black movement and the Ordain Women movement is that BYU was targeted by other athletic departments. When BYU traveled for athletic matches, it was met with protesters who decried the racist sentiments of the LDS church. Universities were pressured to cut their ties with BYU. This not only gained a lot of national press, it threatened the financial state of BYU.

It would be a bigger struggle for Ordain Women to have a similar effect with women’s athletic protests since women’s sports do not gain the same attention or bring in the same amounts of money as men’s sports do.

I am under the (somewhat sarcastic) belief that women will someday obtain the priesthood, but not until they have a black man as prophet of the church. And if a woman someday becomes prophet, then gay marriages will be allowed. I hope, though, that it does not take that long for the LDS church to treat all its members equally. 

But this specific issue aside, I wanted to go back to my third conclusion in a previous post. I somewhat quickly skimmed over the issues of personal revelation within the LDS church and wanted to explain my question about it further. The church teaches that each person can pray about issues and questions they have in their personal life and that God will answer those questions one way or another. The church also warns against receiving false answers that do not come from God. What I don’t understand is how a person is supposed to know the difference? Say, for instance, your husband gets a job offer in a different city. You and your husband are both equally open to the idea of moving but have some reservations about it. You both pray on it separately and he feels strongly that he should take the job while you feel strongly he should turn it down. How do you know which is God’s instruction and which isn’t? If you are both equally convinced that you have received inspiration from God, does this mean you are supposed to separate, with him leaving for the job and you staying behind? How do you interpret the messages and how do you know when your personal feelings are interfering?

I tend to believe that it is impossible for someone to completely separate their personal feelings from what they believe God is telling them. When I was younger (long before I met Eric) I was dating someone that I thought was ‘the one.’ I was young but that never seems to matter when you think you are in love. So I did what I was taught in church, to pray about whether I was supposed to marry him and when I did, I got a resounding YES. I was so excited, and comforted by this personal revelation. When he started to become distant from me I didn’t worry because I KNEW it was all going to work out in the end. I didn’t share with him that I had prayed about us, and I guess that should have been the first red flag. I thought it might make him nervous or scare him off, and it definitely would have. Eventually we did break up. It took me a long time to fully accept it because I was still hanging onto that message I received that he and I would be together forever.

Clearly young adolescents in love are bound to get mixed messages when they don’t have a good grasp on their own emotions quite yet. But can’t the same be true for old men who are so set in their ways that they cannot see past their own biases?

I understand that some (men) in the church are given a greater authority to receive revelation for others beyond themselves. These men are supposed to be so in-tune with God that their personal feeling do not mix with His messages. But recently we know this to not be true. The LDS church has come out against some of the teaching of Brigham Young that were blatantly racist and admitted that those were Young’s personal feelings and not a reflection of the church. A Mormon historian was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune saying that God “works through imperfect instruments.” (Article here)

And this is where I have a problem with most all organized religions. Most of them believe that God is perfect and man is not. Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the only perfect man to walk the earth. Many non-Christian religions have their own prophets with similar attributes. Man cannot be perfect because God is perfect and no one can be as great as God. But religions are run by man, and man is inherently flawed. Therefore religions are inherently flawed. They are incapable of having a perfect knowledge of God, so there can be no such thing as a perfect religion. I think the anxieties and controlling nature that come from religions are due to a cognitive dissonance. They are in the same breath teaching that their beliefs are correct, they have God’s message and they are the only way to his salvation, and yet we all need salvation because we are not perfect and cannot return to God without being saved, and the only way to be saved is by other men who are also flawed. 

I believe some good comes from religious belief, but I also know that religions are full of guilt, pain, judgement, sorrow, fear, fundamentalism, exclusion, and hardship. I believe we can learn to be great, loving, kind, forgiving people without the need of religion. 


  1. This article parallel's a lot of what you said. This is a hard situation because both sides believe that their will is God's will. Neither side will be able to convince the other side that their opinion is wrong. Definitely a lot of philosophical questions.

    1. I like that article a lot! Thanks for sharing. It does echo my thoughts, churches too often make you feel bad, when they ought to be helping you to feel good.