Monday, June 23, 2014

Dissent

The news has been buzzing with talk of the excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women Movement, and proceedings against John Dehlin, the creator of the Mormon Stories podcast.

If you have any connection to Mormonism or the LDS church, you would have to be living under a rock to have not heard these names recently. As usual, many online discussions have been had, many of them polarized, and few of them civil.

I wanted to make a comment about the topic of dissent, which seems to be the crime of which Kate and John are accused.

It is not our place, as outsiders looking in, to judge the spiritual path of another person. Many of us have life experiences that put us in direct contention with a tenant of religious faith. How we choose to handle dichotomy is not only entirely up to the individual, but is between that individual and the divine.

The Mormon church teaches that all people can have communion with God, not just prophets or church leadership. Who are we to say what God did or did not tell another person?

Faithful members might be tempted to now say, “Well, wait a minute! God would never tell someone to go against the teachings of church leadership!”

And to that person I would say, “Boy, you sure haven’t read your scriptures lately, have you?”

Take, for starters, the entire book of First Nephi.

Need some help? Let me clarify:

The year was 600 B.C.E. and Jeremiah was God’s chosen mouthpiece on earth. He was, as many might say, equivalent to the president of the church today. Jeremiah’s command was for all believers to stay in the city of Jerusalem to preach repentance (see Jeremiah 24:4, 26). Poor Uriajah, who fled? Put to death, by the way...

Still Lehi dissented. Why? Because, “God told him to.” Assuming the same church structure as currently established, this would be the equivalent of one of the apostles ignoring the commandment of the prophet in order to “do his own thing.”

But no one questions Lehi’s motives. I haven’t heard anyone clamor for his removal from the church records or question his claims of “God told me to” (and if that isn’t enough for you, don’t get me started on Nephi and his proclivity for murder).

Why is there no movement to have Lehi (or Nephi) excommunicated? Because members of the church believe everything he did was under the direction of God EVEN THOUGH it was in direct violation of the commandments issued by the prophet (WHOA!).

I remember a phone call I had with my exceptionally faithful mother, who called me to tell me she disagreed with Boyd K Packer’s comments on homosexuality a few years back. I had to laugh a little and said, “Mom, you do realize you just disagreed with a general authority.”

She paused (I could only imagine the look on her face as realization took hold). “I guess I’m going to Hell,” she chuckled.

How many members of the church would be left if every dissention was grounds for excommunication?

I’ll expect news of my mom’s pending court, along with Kate’s, and John’s, and Lehi’s. As for Nephi,  I’m sure he has been cast to outer darkness by now anyway.

Or maybe, just maybe, the dissenters know something we do not. If you were to examine your own struggles and challenges, you’d probably even find you’re one of them. Maybe your dissention will even be as important as saving the religious record of a nation.

Let’s allow each individual to work out their own relationship with the divine. Even if you believe all things are black and white, chances are that you don’t know which is which when it comes to another person’s spiritual journey.

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