My blogger friend Ramana shared with me a recent New York Times article about our church. There has been quite a lot of hoopla lately, so I wanted to try to explain. So here is my take on the recent media frenzy about our church.
1. Some feminist members of our church began to discuss their role in the church, and began to ask the church if women could be ordained to the Priesthood. The Church responded and told them that women are not ordained to the Priesthood.
2. These same feminists, led by a human rights attorney who is a member of our church, began to try to put pressure on the church to change this doctrine, and allow women to have the Priesthood. The Church once again responded with the same answer.
3. These same women decided to ask admittance to a church wide Priesthood meeting broadcast. This is held in a conference hall that is near our Church headquarters building. In these meetings they focus on the duties and needs of those in attendance. These women were told that this meeting is only for the men of the church, and that a similar meeting had already been held for the women of the church.
4. This group of women decided to protest by showing up at the meeting and asking for admittance. They were turned away, and again told that only the men of the church were invited to attend this meeting. But they were informed that this broadcast would be a live broadcast, and that they could view it from home. In addition, the whole proceedings would be published in our monthly church magazine.
5. This group continued to protest, and began to try to rally forces from within the church. They scheduled another protest at the next Priesthood meeting, and were politely asked to not take their protests on to the sacred temple grounds. They ignored those requests, and also did not protest in the designated protest areas, thereby disrupting the peace of those coming to attend the meetings. At this point, local leaders got involved with the leader of this feminist group, and counseled her to disband the group, and not continue to try to draw support from the church membership. These kinds of acts are considered to be acts of apostasy, and are very serious.
6. The leader of the group refused to disband it, and in addition, developed a set of "discussions" or lessons to train women about their feminist ideals, and about the reason they should fight against the church. At this point, a summons for a church disciplinary council was sent to the leader of the group. About this time, she moved to Utah. My understanding is that a hold was put on her church membership records because the local leaders knew the whole story, and felt that any disciplinary actions should originate from them.
7. This kind of council is made up of church leaders who hear all sides of the problem in question, and allow the member the right to express their point of view. Then they make a decision about whether or not the person accused should retain their membership, or if they should be disfellowshipped, or if they should be completely excommunicated. It is a very solemn duty, and those responsible pray and try to find out God's will in the matter. Since this feminist leader had already moved away, she was given the option to reschedule the hearings, or to do them via video feed. She refused, and sent a letter expressing her side of things. Ultimately, it was decided that she should be excommunicated because of apostasy. But in our church, if a person repents and changes their ways, they can be allowed back in to full membership in the church eventually.
8. I read several articles that painted an untrue picture of these events. This feminist leader, in her interviews with the media, made it sound like this was the first time a disciplinary council had been mentioned to her. But in actuality, her Bishop and her Stake president had both counseled with her and advised her not to persist with these apostate behaviors. The media proclaims that she is being silenced and punished for her attempt to speak up for women. That is not true. She is receiving the consequences of apostate behavior. She still has the right to appeal this decision.
I want to mention here that I have a close friend who is an alcoholic, and who at one time lost custody of her children because of her drinking. Eventually she regained custody of them. I told her I was proud of her for working hard to get her kids back. She had to meet many court criteria before she could get custody. She said to me, "I would do ANYTHING they asked to get my kids back. Nothing is more important to me than them." I feel that same way about my church membership. I would give up any political ideals, or any fame or views of the world to retain my membership, or if it was already lost, to regain it. But this feminist leader could not give up her "cause", and lost her membership as a result.
9. As a result of her actions, others have been influenced by the untrue media portrayal of the events, and some are considering leaving the church. One has to wonder if they really ever believed it in the first place.
10. This woman posted the actual letter from her Bishop telling her that her membership was revoked. I feel it was an inappropriate for her to make that letter public. The church disciplinary council results are held in strictest confidence by the church leadership, and I think it should be held equally private by this feminist leader. In her effort to rile up the media, and her followers as well, she has tried to become the poster child for the fight against our church.
This is sad because the church leaders do not enjoy taking away membership. They feel the weight of their responsibilities heavily. They genuinely care for each member in their congregation, and would hope that no one would ever be excommunicated. In addition, they counsel excommunicated people to work toward regaining their membership eventually. They invite them to continue to attend church, although they cannot take part in full membership. Their hope is that the person will effect a change in their life, and help them feel sorrow for what they have done that is wrong.
If there were any truth to her claims that she has been unfairly treated, then I would not find fault with her actions. But as I read through many different interviews she gave, I began to see inconsistencies in the story, and soon realized that things were not as she presented them. It's sad, because now there are many non-members who will read the articles and get an untrue understanding of how our church is run.
Feel free to ask questions about the process of church disciplinary counsels. If I get any disrespectful comments, I will delete them. But if you would like to discuss this peacefully, I am happy to accomodate.