Thursday, July 31, 2014

Here's Why The LDS Church Continues To Counsel Young People To Marry Within The Same Racial Background

Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long left its Priesthood ban against otherwise worthy black males behind, there's a passage within one of its manuals that has been used as grist for the propaganda mills of anti-Mormons and that progressive Mormons have used to occasionally speak evil of the Lord's anointed. Counsel given in Aaronic Priesthood Manual #3, Lesson 31, makes it appear that the LDS Church opposes interracial marriage. The manual cites a 1976 devotional speech by Spencer W. Kimball, the same President Kimball who received divine authorization to lift the Priesthood ban just two years later:

“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

A post on Feminist Mormon Housewives by a biracial Mormon validates the wisdom of President Kimball. Kalani, who identifies as half Tongan and half Swedish white, writes of the challenges she's faced in being accepted, particularly by Tongans. Here's the critical excerpts of her post:

I suppose I should start by saying that I am half Tongan and half “palangi,” or “white” (specifically Swedish). In Tongan, they call biracial people “hafekasi” or “half cast,” and can I just say that being biracial is freaking hard?! Author Lani Wendt Young said it best in her novel "Telesa: The Covenant Keeper", when she said that the biracial lead character was “too brown to be white but too white to be brown.” It’s a very strange feeling to be an “insider” and an “outsider” at the same time. All my life, I’ve been told by the Tongan community that I am “too white to be Tongan.” I can honestly say that I’ve never felt uncomfortably different around any group EXCEPT for Tongans. It’s so weird and hard to explain. I feel like I can walk into a room full of people of all ethnicities and feel like I can fit in, but if I walk into a room full of Tongans I’m like a fish out of water. I’m different. And not “different in a good way.” Different in a “look at her...she doesn’t act right” kind of way.


And so, when the time came for me to graduate from high school and venture into the big bad world all alone, I was very ill-prepared to deal with the incredible disapproval I received from the Tongan community because I “didn’t know how to act.” Being biracial felt a lot like walking through a mine field where other people knew where the landmines were, but they were not very forthcoming about that knowledge. Amongst Tongans, I’ve often felt “damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.” If I did or said the wrong thing, other Tongans talked about me and my family, and said I wasn’t taught right. If I asked what the right thing to do was, other Tongans talked about me and my family and said I wasn’t taught right because I had to ask. It felt like a lose-lose situation every time.

A commenter weighs in with a similar experience:

anonymous "palangi" says:
July 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

I can say that marrying into the culture I have never felt more inadequate or discriminated against then when I’m with my husband’s Tongan family. Luckily it’s becoming so much more common to be biracial so I’m not too worried about my kids trying to fit it. Plus my half white kids are way beautiful and that cannot always be said about full white or full Tongan kids…

For the record I believe in gender roles to a point, but to each their own.

This is exactly what President Kimball anticipated. And since people still experience this type of discrimination in 2014, it shows the wisdom of the LDS Church in continuing to caution young LDS members against interracial marriage. The intent is not discrimination, but awareness. Marriage and family can be challenging enough as it is without further cluttering it up with racial issues. But most important in the mind of the Church is for members to marry within the faith.

Too many young people find it difficult to distinguish between being in love and being in heat. In the same lesson, President Kimball gave some principles that should guide our selection:

“In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that, of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong. In true marriage there must be a union of minds as well as of hearts. Emotions must not wholly determine decisions, but the mind and the heart, strengthened by fasting and prayer and serious consideration, will give one a maximum chance of marital happiness” (“Marriage and Divorce,” p. 144).

In the final analysis, seek the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit, and let that Spirit be your guide.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LDS Member Condemns 4th Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision To Overturn Virginia's Gay Marriage Ban

On Monday July 28th, 2014, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declared Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional by a 2-1 vote. Judge Henry Floyd, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, was joined by Judge Roger Gregory (appointed by Bill Clinton) in the majority, while Judge Paul Niemeyer (appointed by George H.W. Bush) dissented. Not surprisingly, Judge Floyd played the 14th Amendment card, and cited the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which overturned the state’s law against interracial marriage, implied a fundamental right to marry that may stretch to accommodate changing societal norms. In contrast, Judge Niemeyer noted that because there exist deep, fundamental differences between traditional and same-sex marriage, the plaintiffs and the majority erred by conflating the two relationships under the loosely drawn rubric of "the right to marriage".

The case resulted from a homosexual Norfolk couple’s lawsuit against the clerk of Norfolk Circuit Court after he refused to issue them a marriage license. The ruling upheld a federal judge’s earlier ruling that the clerk’s decision in accordance with a state constitutional ban against same-sex matrimonial unions violated the men’s rights under the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, the court affirmed that the U.S. Constitution trumps the state constitution’s proscription against gay marriage.

-- Read the 98-page opinion issued in Case No. 14-1167, Bostic v. Schaefer (PDF format)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, all Democrats, acclaimed the court's decision. The Virginia clerks were expected to seek a stay of the decision, pending either a rehearing by the full circuit court, or consideration of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court. Byron Babione, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that represented one of the clerks, said they were considering their next steps. Among other media outlets reporting reaction was the Suffolk News-Herald, and the response of 48-year-old Annette Lewis, identified as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was included. Here's the excerpt:

Annette Lewis, 48, referred to marriage between two individuals of the same gender as an “abomination.”

“I don’t have anything against gay people,” she said, “but the Bible that I read says that it’s wrong.”

Lewis said she reads the King James Version of the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The court made a wrong decision, because it’s supposed to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Paul, and you can quote me on that,” she said.

The LDS Church officially defines marriage as only between one man and one woman, but has disavowed any intent to take disciplinary action against Church members who support legalizing gay marriage.

According to the Washington Post, as of July 28th, 20 states allow gay marriage, and bans against same-sex marriage have been ruled unconstitutional in 11 other states, including Virginia. Court challenges against gay marriage bans have been mounted in all other states.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Disciplinary Council Defers Decision On Kate Kelly's Membership Status For A Couple Of Days; Disfellowshipment May Be More Likely Than Excommunication

Update June 23rd: I was a bit too kind-hearted in my assessment; Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the LDS Church on this date. In response, Kelly said “The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.” Her response is similar to the approach taken by Denver Snuffer after his excommunication.

The leadership of Kate Kelly's former ward held the long-heralded disciplinary council on Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly on June 22nd, 2013, trying her for apostasy, and they notified her of their initial decision, which was promptly posted on the Ordain Women Facebook page:

Kate Kelly's Bishop just said via email: "After having given intense and careful consideration this evening to your membership status, and after carefully reviewing the materials you sent to us, we have decided that we want to prayerfully consider this matter overnight. I will notify you once we have a final decision, probably tomorrow or Tuesday."

This does not necessarily mean excommunication's off the table. What is most likely is that the members of the disciplinary council do not agree on the penalty. This increases the chance that disfellowshipment might be the penalty prescribed rather than excommunication. Kelly has repeatedly asserted her fundamental loyalty to the Church and its senior leadership throughout this entire saga, and this undoubtedly has influenced the council. In addition, over 1,000 letters supporting Kate Kelly were brought to the council, and perhaps they would like to review that correspondence prior to making a final decision.

The primary difference between disfellowshipment and excommunication is that in the case of disfellowshipment, one at least still remains a member of the LDS Church and thus doesn't have all sealings and blessings cancelled.

Vigils in support of Kate Kelly took place in more than 50 U.S. cities, including Salt Lake City (250 attendees), Seattle (25 at the Seattle North Stake Center), Denver, Albuquerque; the site of the hearing in Oakton, VA (60 people); Evanston, IL; Columbia, SC; and even far-off Anchorage, AK. It is unlikely that these vigils influenced the council. LDS Church spokeswoman Ally Isom issued the following statement after the Salt Lake vigil, which included a march from City Creek Park the the Church Office Building:

“In the church we want all to feel welcome, safe, valued, and there is room for questions but how we ask is as important as what we ask, we shouldn’t try to dictate to God what is right in this church”.

Church discipline is not the end of the world. The Deseret News published a story about six LDS members who made it back from various forms of Church discipline. The common denominators:

(1). The penitent valued a return to full fellowship and was fully repentant.

(2). The disciplinary councils played more of a pastoral than a judgmental role.

(3). All the council members cited in the story emphasized there was no command pressure from the General Authorities to decide on a particular outcome. This point has been disputed by some, most notably Denver Snuffer.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dissident LDS Blogger Rock Waterman's "Pure Mormonism" Too "Impure" For LDS Authorities According To New York Times Article

The rumors that dissident LDS blogger Rock Waterman, who edits the Pure Mormonism blog, is in trouble with his local Priesthood chain of command have been confirmed in a New York Times article entitled "Mormons Say Critical Online Comments Draw Threats From Church", published on June 18th, 2014. The New York Times has taken an interest in the latest round of prospective disciplinary actions against dissident Mormons like Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, and have now extended their scrutiny to Rock Waterman. Waterman defines "Pure Mormonism", under Joseph Smith's tutelage, as nothing less than pure Christianity, which is defined as love of God and love of neighbor; anything that does not endorse or amplify that love is considered mere religious baggage.

The money shot:

Rock Waterman, a retired innkeeper in California, writes a blog called Pure Mormonism, which attracts Mormons so orthodox that they believe their church is not sufficiently adhering to its own doctrines.

Last month [May 2014], Mr. Waterman posted a combative challenge addressed to one of the Mormon Church’s top leaders: "Stop making up your own rules and try preaching the Gospel of Christ for a change." [Ed. Note: This phrase appears in the post entitled "Vengeance And The Latter-Day Saint", under the paragraph heading "Mea Culpa"

Two days later, he said, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop and told to either stop blogging or resign his church membership. If he did not resign he would face excommunication, he said the bishop told him, on orders from another official higher up — one of the church’s leaders known as an Area Seventy.

At the end of the article, the Times says Brother Waterman refuses to resign and is willing to face discipline, quoting him as saying "I’m not trying to get the church to change...I’m trying to get the church to abide by its doctrine".

In response to accusations that the LDS Church is trying to suppress free speech online, the Times recorded these statements by Michael Otterson, managing director of the church’s public affairs office, who appears to be concerned when LDS bloggers use discussion to recruit others for campaigns to change church doctrine or structure.

“There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works.”

“When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause and creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.”

According to the Times, Rock Waterman is trying to get the church to abide by its doctrine. But is this always so? Perhaps in some cases, although he seems overly fond of hitting the Reset button back to Joseph Smith. But current LDS doctrine holds that consumption of beer is contrary to the Word of Wisdom. Nevertheless, in this post, Waterman suggests that D&C Section 89 verse 17 endorses beer because barely is O.K. for mild drinks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

LDS Church To Hold Disciplinary Council For Ordain Women Founder Kate Kelly, Excommunication A Possibility

On June 11th, 2014, the New York Times reported that two dissident activist members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, face upcoming disciplinary councils and may be excommunicated from the Church. This post is about the Kate Kelly story.

Sister Kelly received an email on June 8th from the bishop of her previous ward in Virginia (she currently lives in Provo) informing her that she faces disfellowshipment or excommunication on the grounds of apostasy, and calling her to a disciplinary council hearing at the Oakton Virginia Stake Center on June 22nd. Disfellowshipment means limiting the participation of a church member, while excommunication is removing someone from membership. Kelly’s stake president had previously warned her in a letter in May that if she did not shut down the Ordain Women website, dissociate herself from it and repent, she faced excommunication for openly, repeatedly and deliberately acting in public opposition to the church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so. The letter said "you are not required to change your thinking or the questions you may have in your own mind", but that she must keep her questions private and resolve them by talking to her bishop. According to this comment posted on Millennial Star, Kelly was placed on informal probation at that time, the conditions of which she could not identify herself as a member in good standing, participate in temple or sacrament ordinances, pray or speak in church. Another source reveals that when Kelly attempted to appeal the informal probation up the chain of command, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Quorum of the Seventy said he could do nothing for her.

Kelly has posted a copy of this letter HERE, although I've not been able to get it to load successfully.

Kate Kelly describes this development in her own words on the Ordain Women website:

I was informed on June 8 that there will be a disciplinary council held in absentia by my former bishopric on June 22 to try me for "apostasy". I have moved away from the Washington, DC area, and after I left my former Stake President sent me a letter outlining what he called “informal probation” after meeting with me one time, while I was packing to move. The trial will be held in my former ward and I am not able to return.

I was open and honest with my bishop from the day we launched 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. While I was living in his ward, he never once personally called me in to meet with him. Nor did he email or call me with any questions regarding Ordain Women. Three weeks after I had moved out of his ward, and he sent me this letter. Convening a council in my absence, after I have moved, is both cowardly and unchristlike.

During two successive General Conferences, in October 2013 and April 2014, Kelly and Ordain Women announced their intention to line up outside the Conference Center and ask for admission tickets to the all-male General Priesthood Session. On both occasions, LDS authorities told them in advance they would not be admitted. Nevertheless, they showed up and lined up anyway. The latter implies that Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women activists went beyond merely advocating for women's Priesthood ordination, coming out in open rebellion against LDS Church authorities. Sister Kelly seems absolutely blind to the effects of this action and the futility of influencing Church policy through civil disobedience. Nevertheless, the LDS Church was willing to blow it off and turn the other cheek after the first incident in October 2013, although they rebutted five formal requests by Ordain Women to meet the Church authorities.

But Ordain Women chose to do it a second time in April 2013. This means they slapped the LDS Church's other cheek. Consequently, the LDS Church had no viable alternative but to initiate a disciplinary council and try Kate Kelly for her membership. But while this is just, it is no cause for joy. Those of us who believe she deserves ecclesiastical discipline ought not to be celebrating this occasion. It is a bit troubling that Kelly reports she will not be able to attend her own council, but perhaps that's a misunderstanding on her part, since it is a requirement that the subject of a disciplinary council be allowed to attend and speak in his/her own defense.

Since this post was published, the LDS Church has issued an updated statement on Church discipline which makes no specific reference to either Kate Kelly or John Dehlin:

"The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.

"Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church."

Ordain Women Responds: KSTU Channel 13 reports that Kimberly Baptista, public relations director of Ordain Women, stated in an email that they have two actions in response. The first is that they are asking supporters to submit a letter describing how the group has improved their relationships with the Church or strengthened their testimonies. Representatives from Ordain Women will deliver these letters to the Church Office Building and will also send them to those who make up Kelly's disciplinary council. The letters are being collected HERE. The group is also planning to hold a candlelight vigil on June 22 at 5 p.m. MDT, the same time as the hearing. The vigil will be held outside the LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, and those who gather will do so to show their support of Kelly.

Other Reaction: Predominantly LDS reaction from a number of sources (after the jump):