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):

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Julie Rowe Discusses Her NDE Book "A Greater Tomorrow" With Mills Kershaw On KTKK

A discussion thread on LDS Freedom Forum alerted me to the existence of another LDS member who had a NDE/OBE (Near-Death Experience/Out-of-Body Experience). Julie Rowe had a NDE during an operation in 2004, but was initially forbidden from disclosing it to the general public. But she was eventually given permission to share her experience, which she does in her book entitled "A Greater Tomorrow". Some of those who've read it say there are many similarities with another NDE book entitled "Visions Of Glory" by John Pontius. FairMormon does disclose some caveats about Visions of Glory, though.

From the description on Amazon:

In 2004, Julie Rowe was a happy wife and mother. Then her health took a turn for the worse. While in a weakened state, her spirit left her body and entered the Spirit World. An ancestor named John greeted her and showed her many wonderful places there. He also allowed her to read from the Book of Life, which showed her a panorama of the earth's past, present, and future.

Julie saw the lives of many historical figures, such as Adam and Eve, Enoch, Noah, and Moses. She witnessed the Savior's mortal life, including his crucifixion and resurrection. She also saw the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, and the key events that have led to the Church's growth.

Then Julie was shown upcoming world events that will be both tragic and glorious. She saw earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, plagues, and wars, but she also witnessed how the Lord is watching over His people and is preparing places of refuge to protect them from the coming calamities. Julie was filled with joy as she saw the Saints establish the New Jerusalem and other Cities of Light in preparation for the Savior's Second Coming.

Prior to her return, she was told that at a future time she would be expected to tell others about her experience. That time has come.

A few of the chapters are posted online:

-- Chapter 1, The Day I Left My Body: Describes Julie Rowe's illness and hospitalization.

-- Chapter 2, The Lake: Describes her initial encounter with John in the spirit world. John reminded Julie of the premortal existence and she was shown scenes from her premortal life, and some of the roles she played there. After being shown scenes of how distressed her husband would be upon her death, it was agreed upon that Julie would willingly go back to her body, but only after she was given a “tour” and was able to learn and see more for herself what really happens in the spirit world. She was shown the War in Heaven, as well as various scenes that have played out on earth throughout the history of mankind. John reminded her about the story of her birth and the difficulty her mother had while pregnant with her.

-- Chapter 9, Earthly Cities of Light: Although the U.S. was experiencing economic problems and a few small-scale disasters, no major catastrophes were on the horizon. Nevertheless, the LDS leadership scheduled a special meeting concerning preparedness that was broadcast. They also sent letters to stake presidents asking them to determine what supplies the Saints had and how much food storage they had. So meetings were held where local leaders passed out a list asking Church members to indicate the supplies they had available if needed. Then the invitation came from the prophet for Church members to gather at camps that had been prepared as places of refuge (some would become "cities of light"). However, most LDS members refused to even consider the idea of leaving their homes; only a small percentage of the members went to the camps, either because they did not have the faith, or they were not prepared. Individuals traveling to these places of refuge were observed to be getting gas at certain stops, but were urged to bypass major cities like Denver (specifically mentioned) because they were unsafe. Mormons and non-Mormons alike were at the camps.

But LDS Freedom Forum revealed that Julie Rowe was a guest on Mills Kershaw's Drive-Time show on KTKK in Salt Lake. The show turned out to be 2 hours and 54 minutes. Here's the MP3 link:

Because the program is nearly three hours long, I listened to it and have gleaned out what I considered the more interesting highlights. Julie Rowe is somewhat difficult to understand at times; she has the type of voice and enunciation that's difficult for me, but I do the best I can. Mills Kershaw was perfectly understandable. My remarks begin after the jump, and I refer to the time on the MP3 where the particular discussion took place:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gallup 2014 Values And Beliefs Poll Indicates 75 Percent Of Respondents Consider The Bible To Be The Word Of God; 47 Percent Effectively Embrace The LDS Viewpoint On The Bible

One of the most hotly debated subjects in Christian theology is about Biblical interpretation. Is the Bible actually inerrant or merely authoritative? One point of view holds that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, meaning the words of the Bible came directly from God, essentially using the writers as scribes. The other point of view holds that the Bible is merely authoritative, meaning that it reflects the words of men, guided by divine inspiration.

To take the public's pulse on this and other religious issues, Gallup conducted their annual Values and Beliefs poll from May 8-11, 2014. A sample of 518 U.S. adults provided these responses:

-- 28 percent believe the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. This means they consider the Bible to be "inerrant"; some use the phrase "God-breathed". But note that most of these people probably eat shellfish and pork, and virtually none of them practice animal sacrifice or stone adulteresses.

-- 47 percent believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, but that not everything in it should be taken literally. While they acknowledge the authenticity of the Bible, they do not consider it "inerrant" because it was recorded by imperfect human beings using imperfect human syntax. Imperfection cannot produce perfection. This come closest to the doctrinal position expressed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which states in the Eighth Article of Faith, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly..." So 47 percent of respondents effectively embrace the LDS belief about the authenticity of the Bible.

-- 21 percent believe the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man.

However, to help clarify where the non-literal believers stand on God's role in the Bible, Gallup asked 510 respondents in a second poll a different question that offered a fourth choice: saying the Bible is the actual word of God, but with multiple interpretations possible. Here's the split:

-- 28 percent believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, but that not everything in it should be taken literally.

-- 28 percent believe the Bible is the actual word of God, but multiple interpretations are possible.

Only 22 percent still thought the Bible should be taken word for word, and only 18 percent still considered it a book of fables.

Of course, the LDS Church is the only Christian church (other than its derivatives) that also accepts the Book of Mormon as the authoritative word of God. It seems rather odd that, 184 years after the initial publication of the Book of Mormon, not a single known prominent pastor, priest, or preacher has accepted and taught the Book of Mormon alongside the Bible to his flock. One is not actually required to join the LDS Church to accept the Book of Mormon; one merely has to have an open mind and consider the fact that our Heavenly Father always desires to communicate with us and would not be so cruel as to slam the windows of heaven shut for all eternity in 100 A.D.

On June 2nd, Gallup released the results of another poll taken in their Values and Beliefs survey. A total of 1,028 U.S. adults sounded off on creationism:

-- 42 percent believe that God created humans in present form. This come closest to the doctrinal position expressed by the LDS Church, but we do not believe the world was created in seven calendar days.

-- 31 percent believe that humans evolved from other life forms, but that God guided the process.

-- 19 percent believe that humans evolved from other life forms, and God was not involved.

It seems like many people already accept aspects of Mormon doctrine without actively realizing it.