What is Church Discipline and how does it work?
Because only men in the LDS Church are ordained to the priesthood, anyone called before a formal disciplinary court is summoned, questioned and judged by an all-male council. For women, such trials, sometimes referred to as “courts of love,” are organized and judged by leaders at the local, or ward, level. Trials for men are usually convened by leaders at the higher, or stake, level.
The possible consequences of these courts are disfellowshipment or excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members who are disfellowshipped may not pray in meetings, give talks, hold a Church position, hold a temple recommend, sustain Church officers, or partake of the sacrament. They are encouraged to continue to pay tithing, however. Excommunication is the most extreme action that may be taken. No longer considered a member of the Church, those who are excommunicated are denied all privileges related to membership and must be re-baptized to regain those privileges.
What is apostasy and why is Kate being disciplined for it?
Apostasy, as defined by leaders of the LDS Church, is “when individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel.” According to Ordain Women spokesperson Debra Jenson, “Kate Kelly has never wavered in her testimony of the gospel and is in no way guilty of apostasy. Her faith is beyond question. As a leader of Ordain Women, Kelly, like the organization, embraces the promise of continuing revelation as outlined in the Ninth Article of Faith. At every turn, our actions have been respectful and dignified and aimed at communicating with our Church leaders.”
Why is the disciplinary counsel being held in Virginia?
Kate’s records are being held by her former bishop, who refuses to transfer them to her current location.
Was this expected?
No. Kate has been transparent with the public and with her Church leaders and did not expect to be disciplined in this way. According to Kate,
“I was open and honest with my bishop from the day we launched ordainwomen.org on March 17, 2013. I communicated with him each and every time Ordain Women did an action and asked that he come to me if he had any questions. … Convening a council in my absence, after I have moved, is … unchristlike.”
If I support Ordain Women, should I be worried about my own discipline?
We cannot predict the response of individual Church leaders. Many of our local leaders have been supportive. Others have not. We believe our actions are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the LDS Church. We recognize that there might be social or personal costs to participants due to the disapproval of loved ones. Only you can weigh your circumstances and concerns and decide if this is the right thing for you to do.
Why did Kate/Ordain Women decide to take this story to the media?
We are not being heard in other ways. Our requests for meetings have been consistently ignored. Michael Otterson, head of Public Affairs for the LDS Church, refused to intervene to prevent the court from going forward.
Why are you asking for letters of support?
Kate’s bishop sent her a letter that said she could submit a written statement in her defense if she could not be there in person. We are asking you to write a note as to how Ordain Women has helped strengthened your ties to the LDS Church and/or your belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are collecting notes here.
Who will receive the letters?
Kate’s former bishopric in Virginia and LDS Church leaders in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Will these letters do any good?
We don’t know. We hope they will speak to the good that Ordain Women has done and soften the hearts of the men who sit in judgment.
Why are you holding a candlelight vigil?
To show that many people are affected by this – not just Kate and Ordain Women.
To grieve together.
To show support.
Where will the candlelight vigils be held?
In front of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, RSVP here.
2719 Hunter Mill Road Oakton, Virginia 22124, RSVP here.
Wherever supporters choose to hold them. We encourage those of you outside of Utah or the DC area to hold local vigils. We propose you invite people to attend either at your home or standing on the sidewalk near your local church building (not on the Church building property, to avoid trespassing issues). Please do not hold vigils at LDS temples. Please add the details and location of your vigil to this map.
In keeping with the spirit of Ordain Women, we urge you to ensure that these vigils are reverent and respectful. A short devotional to go along with the candlelight vigil is encouraged.
We are proud of the women and men of Ordain Women who have courageously and faithfully moved the conversation on gender equality in the Church forward, and we long for the day when we can discuss these issues without any fear of censure.
If I can’t attend the vigil, is there something I can do at home or online to show support?
Submit a profile in support of female ordination, instructions here.
Submit a note or letter of support for Kate Kelly and Ordain Women here.
Commit to coming to the Ordain Women Sisters in Silence Vigil in Salt Lake City on June 22 at 5pm, RSVP on Facebook.
Plan a silent vigil in your local area and add it to the map here.
Create an Ordain Women-themed profile photo, instructions here.
What do you hope to achieve?
We hope the disciplinary court in absentia will be cancelled and that Kate will continue in full fellowship with the LDS Church.
Why are you advocating in public?
We want to show our support for Kate and all women who hope for full participation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There seems to be a perception among Church leadership that Mormon women are content in their prescribed roles. In response to a question during a 1997 interview about whether the policy banning women from the priesthood could change, then President Gordon B. Hinckley said it could, but it would require revelation. The reporter probed, “So you’d have to get a revelation?” Hinckley responded, “Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied.” (http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/hinckley.htm)
More recently, our current General Relief Society President Sister Linda K. Burton repeated this assumption: “I don’t think women are after the authority. I think they’re after the blessings and are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood.” (http://youtu.be/pQbFwbPcr-g) It is apparent that we need to express ourselves in a more public way—agitating faithfully—in order for our leaders to understand that we want both the blessings and the authority of the priesthood and that we are not happy being excluded. As we publicly break cultural taboos that silence women, we believe more women will find the courage to honestly express their righteous desire to participate fully with men in all aspects of church governance, service and sacred ordinances.
Ordain Women engages in faith-affirming strategic action. How is this different from political action?
Our understanding of the gospel is that the heavens are yet open. The Ninth Article of Faith states: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Webelieve that the expansion of priesthood keys must come through revelation to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That Church members play a role in this process is demonstrated throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, which includes many examples of revelations received after members approached the Prophet and requested revelation. This pattern was established by Jesus, who said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). It is our faith in this process that compels us to action. “And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen” (D&C 30:11).
Is this a protest?
No. It is a plea for our voices to be heard. We will not protest. We want to support Kate and each other and continue to build our faith together.
In keeping with the reverent nature of the event, organizers have asked participants to abide by the following guidelines:
No anti-church diatribes
No signs or banners