I am attending BYU-Idaho Online and I was given an assignment to write a persuasive essay on a controversial topic. While my writing contains statements made by them, I cannot speak for their intentions, personal testimonies, or worthiness. Thanks for all of you who offered feedback and critique as I wrote this and I hope you enjoy the finished product. If you did, you might also enjoy my other post that has a poorly veiled reference to Dehlin, The New Anti-Mormon Campaign.
Are Church Disciplinary Councils Necessary?
With over 15 million members, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gained the attention of viewers worldwide. When members of the Church speak out in criticism to the Church and seek to indoctrinate others to their cause, the Church has a duty to intervene. Some critics argue that the church goes too far and is too vocal about the enforcement of certain doctrinal practices. Regardless, the Church has an obligation to protect the image of the church and its members by holding disciplinary councils with members who are teaching doctrines in opposition, to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Recently, Kate Kelly, of Ordain Women, and John Dehlin, of Mormon Stories, have made public that they have each been asked to meet with their local church leaders for a disciplinary council. (Walch) During a Church disciplinary meeting, local church leaders meet with a member to discuss actions taken by the individual that can be damaging to the church or the individual. Both meetings are being convened on grounds of apostasy. This is because Kelly and Dehlin have made critical remarks in regard to the church through their organizations and to media outlets.
“The purpose of Church discipline is not to punish but to facilitate full repentance and fellowship for a person who has made serious mistakes.” (LDS) There are three purposes for Church discipline; to help the individual to repent, to protect the innocent, and to protect the integrity of the Church. Depending on the severity of the charge and the contrition of the individual there are four possible outcomes: no action, formal probation, disfellowship, or loss of membership (excommunication).
Charges of apostasy are brought when members of the church make repeated, clear and open public opposition to the Church, its leaders and its doctrine. In addition they may persuade other Church members to their point of view or publicly insists the Church change its doctrine to align with their personal views. (LDS)
Under Kelly’s direction, Ordain Women is now organizing six discussions in an effort convince others of what they feel are incorrect doctrines of the Church in regards to not allowing women to be ordained to the Priesthood. The lessons also promote the idea that the Church supports a culture of misogyny and sexism. (Ordain Women) Earlier this year Ordain Women contacted the Church asking for tickets to a conference meeting intended for males 12 and older, but was denied. The Church Public Affairs Department further requested that members of the organization keep to free-speech zones and asked that news media cameras not be present on Temple Square to preserve the spirit of harmony sought during General Conference (Moody) Kelly defied these requests from the church and marched anyways accompanied by multiple media news outlets.
Dehlin has also been critical of the Church in his podcast, Mormon Stories. In his biography on the site he says he can “no longer believe many of the fundamental LDS church truth claims,” namely prophetic revelation, the divinity of the scriptures, the need for ordinances, and proxy work for the dead. (Dehlin) In January of 2014 Dehlin requested that he no longer be contacted by ward members or church leaders and that he no longer be considered a member of the ward. (King)
There are some who support Kelly and Dehlin in their vocal opposition to the Church. Over 70 Mormon websites joined with the site Flunking Sainthood in claiming that there is “room for all in this church,” (Reiss) and even quote President Dieter F. Uchtdorf “…regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!” (Uchtdorf) The part of the talk Reiss excludes is to whom President Uchtdorf is speaking. He is speaking to those who “earnestly desire to overcome [their] faults and the tendency to sin. With [their] heart and soul [they] yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” The purpose of a disciplinary council is to determine if this is the case for these two individuals.
There is also a concern that if they are excommunicated they will become more vocal in opposition to the church. We have already seen this in some of the reaction articles being posted. (Goodstein) Conversely the Church does not make public statements about persons facing discipline out of respect for the privacy of the individual. As a result there is only ever one side of the story told.
The factor that overrides all this though is the protection of the innocent. When charismatic persons seek to lure others away from the church it can cause irreparable harm. When Alma is lamenting those who he led astray he says that he had “murdered many of [God’s] children, or rather led them away unto destruction.” Separating those who rebel against the Church from the general membership helps to protect others from being misled by someone claiming to teach truth.
The Church must address circumstances when members are making public statements contrary to the teachings of the Gospel. “The purpose of Church discipline is not to punish but to facilitate full repentance and fellowship for a person who has made serious mistakes.” (LDS) At times that realization is made after a period of separation. Kelly and Dehlin have amassed a loyal following. If they are adamant in continuing their current course, removing them from the Church protects innocent members of the Church from being swayed by those claiming to be devoted to the Church. Lastly it protects the integrity of the Church. As Kelly and Dehlin make statements to the press criticizing the Church, they do so as former members.
Thomas B Marsh spoke of his own excommunication and eventual return to the church, “The Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But O what have I lost?!” (Marsh) Hopefully Kelly and Dehlin can come to the same realization.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon News Room. n.d. 19 June 2014 http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-discipline.
Dehlin, John. Mormon Stories. n.d. 19 June 2014 http://mormonstories.org/john-dehlin/.
Goodstein, Laurie. New York Times. 11 June 2014. 19 June 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/us/two-activists-within-mormon-church-threatened-with-excommunication.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&_r=1.
King, Bryan C. "Stake Presidency Letter- John-Dehlin." 7 June 2014. LDS Smile. 14 June 2014 http://ldssmile.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Stake-Presidency-Letter-John-Dehlin-Excommunication-disciplanary-council.jpg.
Marsh, Thomas B. "Thomas B. Marsh to Heber C. Kimball." Brigham Young Collection. Salt Lake: Church Historical Department, 5 May 1857.
Moody, Jessica. "Church Asks Activist Group to Reconsider Plans to Protest at General Conference." 17 March 2014. Mormon Newsroom. 18 June 2014 http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-asks-activist-group-to-reconsider-general-conference-protest-plans.
Ordain Women. Ordain Women. 15 May 2014. 19 June 2014 http://ordainwomen.org/six-discussions/.
Reiss, Jana. Flunking Sainthood. 16 June 2014. 19 June 2014 http://janariess.religionnews.com/2014/06/16/mormon-bloggers-podcasters-emphasize-room-lds-church/.
Uchtdorf, Dieter F. "Come, Join with Us." October 2013 General Conference. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013.
Walch, Tad. Deseret News. 11 June 2014. 18 June 2014 http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865604976/Two-Mormon-activists-say-they-are-facing-church-discipline.html?pg=all.