Joy and Sorrow
By Kate Kelly
Like so many of you, I have been moving forward these past two weeks with a heaviness in my heart. I have been focusing on positive self-care. I have made it a point to spend time with family, go on many bike rides, and surround myself with true and stalwart friends. Amid the sadness and pain I have experienced, I’ve been reminding myself of the beauty and magic of life, and all that is wonderful on this earth. There is so much to be joyful and hopeful about. I have experienced what many who experience grief do: sorrow and loss, but also rebirth and a new-found wonder.
Let me be perfectly clear: what happened to me was wrong. It was abusive. It was unfair. It was unacceptable.
But, my reaction is mine to choose. I choose to move forward with grace in the face of brutality, unkindness and the sometimes hideous reaction of human beings to someone else’s tragedy.
I choose joy. I choose passion. I choose the delicious freedom of authenticity.
Points of clarification
There have been so, so many of you who have been with me on this journey. So many of you are fighting online battles in my defense, with those who are reticent to exercise compassion. To you I want to offer some additional information that may help clarify events.
I did not choose to “go public” with my church discipline:
I requested that information about my disciplinary process be kept in strict confidentiality. On May 6 I received an email from my Stake President, Scott Wheatley, that said, “because you have carried your campaign for ordination far beyond the boundaries of our Stake, and have previously told the media and the public that you are a member in good standing, it may be necessary at some point in the future to correct the public record regarding your standing in the Church. For these reasons, I cannot agree to the request in your email for absolute confidentiality.”
Hence, I felt I only had control of how the information about me was conveyed, and the power to tell my story myself, not whether or not it would be made public.
The Bishop who excommunicated me, Mark Harrison, did not initiate the disciplinary process against me or give me any direct council:
December 12, 2013 I met with President Wheatley at his request. President Wheatley emailed me before the meeting and said, “I would like to discuss your efforts regarding Ordain Women and hope to have Bishop Harrison join us.” [emphasis added] Bishop Harrison accepted his invitation to attended the meeting, but did not conduct or chime in much at all. The meeting was conducted by President Wheatley and he largely dominated the conversation. I blogged about the meeting here in December. My take-away from that meeting was that I was not at risk for discipline.
May 5, 2014 was the only other meeting I had with my leaders regarding Ordain Women. I was shocked when President Wheatley requested the May 5th meeting, I told him that I was in the process of moving out of state, as I mentioned to him in December, and was no longer able to meet with him. President Wheatley insisted I meet with him in an email saying he could meet, “anytime, day or night.” He also requested a “move restriction” be placed on my records in order to convey to me I had no choice but to meet with them, despite the move. I was stunned at the sudden urgency of a meeting as I was literally on my way out the door. However, I met with him, under duress, during that stressful time of selling all of my belongings and packing up my apartment, hoping to get the newly placed “move restriction” taken off so I could move on in peace.
Bishop Harrison did not attend the May 5th meeting. President Wheatley specifically said in the May 5th meeting he had no intention of convening a council in absentia. He made no indication that formal discipline was imminent.
There was no additional follow-up from Bishop Harrison regarding either of those meetings in person, over the phone, via email or otherwise until I received the notice that he was convening a disciplinary council on June 8, weeks after I had moved out of his ward.
In fact, just days before our move my husband and I saw Bishop Harrison and his wife at a ward member’s home. He wished us luck on our journey to Kenya and bid us farewell. There was no mention of any pending meeting, disciplinary or otherwise by him. My impression was that we left on good terms and would not hear from him again. He had never reached out to me directly before, despite several emails I sent him requesting he come to me for information on Ordain Women if he was ever troubled by my involvement.
Aside from quietly attending the December meeting President Wheatley convened, Bishop Harrison never came to me to engage in any conversation about Ordain Women with me directly.
I am not encouraging people to leave the church:
I encourage everyone to find a safe space where they can be their authentic selves and live with integrity. If you feel emotionally capable of staying in the church, I encourage you to stay. However, as active members of the church who see problems with gender inequality, I encourage you to continue to raise questions about women in the church. People of conscience should raise their voices. If you stay, speak up.
It’s not too late.
I am appealing the decision to excommunicate me and it is not too late for the leaders involved to do the right thing. In a recent talk Elder Holland said, “however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made … It is never too late…”
In fact, it’s not too late for the church to do the right thing for Margaret and Lavina and all of the others who have been harshly punished for speaking out in favor of equality in the church. Just as the church teaches individual church members to correct past mistakes, the institution can also rectify old wrongs and heal old wounds. The Church has shown some signs that it is willing to make amends and correct errors of the past.
In fact, it wasn’t even too late for Helmuth Hübener, a young Mormon of extraordinary courage who was summarily executed for standing up to the third Reich in Nazi Germany. Ten days after his arrest by the Gestapo, Helmuth was excommunicated by his local church leaders in absentia. He spoke of his excommunication as more painful than his wrongful conviction by the Nazis. The day he was to be executed, Helmuth wrote in a letter to a fellow branch member: “I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter… I look forward to seeing you in a better world!” However, even in Helmuth’s case it was not too late for the Church to do the right thing. After the war was over, he was posthumously reinstated in the LDS Church and had his ordinances restored. His records now indicate he was excommunicated “by mistake.”
One of the most beautiful and comforting things I learned as a young Mormon girl is that repentance is real. We can always forgive, forget and move on from past error or pain. In my personal case, and in the cases of so many others, it is not “everlastingly too late.” I have two levels of appeal, which I intend to pursue. One to President Wheatley, my initial accuser. If unsuccessful, I will appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, as is my right.
Regardless of the outcome of my appeal, my heart will go on beating and I will move forward, confident that I did the right thing. I spoke the truth, with love. I acted with integrity, as I was taught in Young Women. I stood together with my sisters.
We have the choice to let fear of punishment silence us. Let’s choose the courage of our pioneer foremothers over fear. Let’s choose to step into the light and speak boldly instead of hiding in the shadows. Let’s choose to speak up now, instead of accepting a deferred dream for our daughters.
I do not know what the future holds for me, but can assure you of one thing going forward: firm as the mountains around us, Ordain Women will carry on!