I do not agree with everything that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin stand for, but I think ousting them as if they were apostates is unjustified.
Kelly believes in the institution and wants to remain a member. She is asking a question that is uncomfortable to most Mormons, but it is a question that has not yet been adequately answered by the Brethren since Joseph's death. It deserves a definitive answer.
The podcasts and forums that comprise Dehlin's Mormon Stories are discussions based around LDS history, policy, and truth claims. Dehlin is also openly supportive of homosexuals within the church, as well as those who have a beef with various policies. The entire point of his website and efforts is that people can remain members of the church even if they don't agree with every policy and doctrine. I happen to agree with this attitude.
It takes some people time to figure out their belonging in a religious culture, doesn't it? And often there are disagreements, arguments, and protests along the way. The key to unlocking all of it is to follow Christ's example of love and truth speaking. The truth belongs to him, and it is never evil. The truth can often be ugly and uncomfortable, but it never destroys faith in God. In temporary institutions, perhaps, but the truth never cleaves anything that is eternal. It merely frees you to start fresh on your journey to that which is eternal.
Most of the Millennials that I encounter know some information regarding Joseph Smith's polygamy, but none of those people got that information from the LDS Church. They know about several of the skeletons in our religious closet. Many of them either sought out that material or were blindsided by it as a common consequence of participating in social media.
History is comprised of uncomfortable material, and it is tough to wade through the agendas of historians. But the history that the institution dispenses is a sanitized version that leaves most rank and file members vulnerable to the fiery darts of the adversary.
The fact that Dehlin gives airtime to these discussions does not make him an apostate. He certainly has his own theories and an agenda, and I don't agree with many of his conclusions. But agreeing with him is not why I listened to several of his podcasts, nor is it the reason that I read histories. The reason that I read histories is so that I can take advantage of other people's research, and then arrive at my own conclusions.
The fact that the church elects not to be a forthright participant in its own history displays a lot of fear. The recent essays that LDS.org has posted are not vigorous at all, but rather amount to PR damage control blurbs. It's all very late in the Google Age, and seems more desperate than prophetic. Which means that the institution is operating on the same fear that caused them to excommunicate Avraham Giliadi, Maxine Hanks, Paul Toscano, et al, in the '90s. This spate of excommunications is evidence of that same fear of the Twelve actually answering the criticisms of unsatisfied members of the church. They do not want to discuss women and authority, some of the uglier moments of Church history, and they don't want to deal with people airing their controversial views on the internet.
I side with the apostle Paul on these matters. Examine Ephesians 6:
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Without the truth, you are improperly armored. The fact that the institution has not armed its people with the truth about all of these things makes them participants in leaving us vulnerable to attack.
I have weathered many fiery darts because of my faith, but I was fortunate to place most of that faith into the scriptures and the words of Jesus Christ. If all of my faith had been placed in the institution, I would have been gone like many others. But the unraveling of the LDS Church, happening before our eyes, doesn't phase me at all. Because I understand that the Church is merely an invitation to the real thing, the legit church spoken of in Sections 76, 78, 88, 93, and 107.
Examine the requirements for belonging to that church in Section 76:
50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.
70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.
The LDS Church doesn't qualify for the above if it is too afraid to weather a bunch of civil protesters and podcasters. Having the sort of truth that qualifies for the blessings described in Section 76 means that you have no reason to fear anyone. You have inherited everything, and Christ has subdued all of your enemies. It means that the Brethren should simply let Kelly and the OW women into the Priesthood Session. What in the world is there to be afraid of when you are dealing with a group of LDS women dressed in their church clothes?
Yes, it sends a message to allow women into the space that is normally reserved for men. The message is: "We have nothing to hide, and nothing to fear". Instead, the Brethren have opted for excommunication to effectually silence these voices.
At worst, Kelly and Dehlin are heretics. But heresy is not apostasy. If you do not know the difference between these two terms, I invite you to do yourself and the rest of humanity a favor and examine this very important distinction. The most recent LDS definition of apostasy, posted below, does not match the historic definition of the word:
"Apostasy, being rare, has to be carefully defined. We have three definitions of apostasy: one is open, public and repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders. Open, public, repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders — I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second one is to teach as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine after one has been advised by appropriate authority that that’s false doctrine. In other words, just teaching false doctrine is not apostasy, but [it is] teaching persistently after you’ve been warned. For example, if one were to teach that the Lord requires you to practice plural marriage in this day, it would be apostasy. And the third point would be to affiliate and belong to apostate sects, such as those that preach or practice polygamy." -Dallin H. Oaks, from a recent PBS documentaryI'm sorry, but all of those definitions are closer to heresy than apostasy. From the OED:
apostasy, n.As you can see, there is little need to excommunicate apostates at all. They more often leave on their own, as per the Anglicans and Protestants who abandoned Catholicism. Oaks, being a lawyer, should know better.
1 a. Abandonment or renunciation of one's religious faith or moral allegiance.
1 b. The action of quitting a religious order or renouncing vows without legal dispensation.
2. By extension: The abandonment of principles or party generally.
What we actually are seeing here is an organization treating heretics as if they were apostates. If you want the armor of God, and if you want the truth to be "girt about your loins", then such abuse of word meaning doesn't fly. It is akin to changing the meaning of the word "marriage", and the consequences similar. You cannot fool God with institutional power.
The Pharisees were apostates. King Noah and his priests were apostates. The Zoramites who used the rameumptom were apostates. The Great Apostasy, as defined by the LDS Church, was executed by large religious movements such as Catholicism, Protesantism, all the way up to the religious revivalism of Joseph Smith's day. It would seem that apostasy is more often the realm of an entire religion than it is of individuals.
The anti-christs of scripture preached that Christ was a myth, and that revelation was an impossibility. They preached that men fared in life by the "management of the creature". Kelly and Dehlin do not resemble these individuals at all. They are not apostates or anti-christs by any stretch of the imagination.
I do not agree with many of the conclusions reached by Kelly and Dehlin. Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am against the insult of ordaining women to male priesthood outside of Calling and Election that is detailed in my last few blog posts. But I would not have these individuals removed from the church any more than I would want myself removed. If anything, Kelly and Dehlin should be embraced by their local leaders, and their questions should be addressed openly and freely. The conclusions that they have come to do not need to be embraced to do this. It is only fear that dictates that they be excommunicated.
The institution has recently made multiple claims that decisions regarding excommunications originate on the local level, and that they are not coordinated with members of the higher quorums. If you believe this to be true, then you should read these two recent accounts:
We will not inherit the blessings of the Church of the Firstborn by being complicit with these corporate shenanigans. The more we hide from the truth, the more we alienate God. The longer we pretend, the more vulnerable we will become.