Kate Kelly was not kicked out of Heaven

I’m careful to write about this subject.

Partly because it is regarding another human life and partly because it has to do with something that I consider sacred, personal, and private.

But it’s a topic we can’t dance around, ignore, or wish away. Even though for every Latter-day Saint right now we wish we could wish it away some way or another. We wish it could be different for everyone–and I know I’m speaking on behalf of every side to this argument.

Yesterday the decision was made. Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And my heart sunk.

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If you’ve been following my blog even in the slightest that last part might surprise you. I haven’t agreed with Ordain Women’s agenda or mission statement since the launch of their website in 2013 and Kate and I have very different ideas and theologies. BUT my heart still sank. Kate served a mission—dedicating 18 months of her life to the gospel and to those who need it. She married in the temple, making covenants with God that sealed their love forever. She most likely served in many callings, leading others with her natural knack for speaking, encouraging, and teaching. She’s intelligent and well-spoken. She was a member we needed. That’s something to be sad over.

But then my heart sank for something else. Something that hurt a little worse.

In the darkness of a cramped car as we drove back from a day trip I read by the light of my phone an interview with Kate shortly after her excommunication. And it stunned me. *You can read the whole interview here.*

“Essentially what they’ve done is, they’ve not only kicked me out of church, they’ve also kicked me out of Heaven,” Kate said in the interview. She continued on, “…I do not acknowledge that God recognizes the decision…I don’t think these men have control over that.”

These men. Kicked out of Heaven. God doesn’t recognize the decision.

Ouch.

My only question for Kate would be why she’s so saddened over leaving the church if it’s only full of men who have no authority from God, if decisions made in the church don’t really matter, and if temple covenants are nothing other than whispered, thoughtless words that carry no further than the ceiling?

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It was a punch to my gut—and maybe even to yours right now—that anyone would think that our church is made up of thoughtless men who kick people out of Heaven. That temple covenants don’t mean much because we’ll all just get there somehow.

It stunned me, because truth is–no one kicks anyone out of Heaven. No one has the authority to take you by the shoulders and steer you away from the pearly gates. You alone hold that power. You alone choose to walk in–or out– of Heaven.

Am I damning Kelly to a place other than Heaven? Absolutely not. I’m just restating what my religion–and the majority of other religions–believe, and that is that every individual dictates their own salvation. Your choices, your love for God and for the doctrine you follow, ultimately steer the course of your life and point you toward where you’ll stand when all is said and done and you see the Savior face to face.

These men Kate speaks of happen to be her brothers. Her friends. Her husband. Her counselors and teachers and prophets who spend time on their knees for her–and for all of us–to be comforted and to be faithful and to endure. These men love Kate. Just as the women in the church do. Just as the head of the church does–Jesus Christ himself. Their decision wasn’t a casual one. It wasn’t a meeting of egos that decided to kick a soul out of Heaven. It came after multiple conversations, dealings with Kate, prayers, tears shed from people of all sides of the debate, and genuine pleadings with the Lord. It came after letters that told Kate questions aren’t bad. Neither are opinions. It’s when questions turn to stumbling blocks and hindrances for others that it suddenly takes eyes off of Jesus Christ and eternity and puts eyes instead on worldly agendas, trending groups, and followings meant for personal gain.

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The “Church of Latter-day saints” Kate refers to in the interview is the Church of Jesus Christ–a church that is led by a Savior who should continue to be the only focus for its members–and for the world. In THAT church, the one with Christ within the name, our Savior teaches and counsels, edifies, encourages growth, and welcomes. It’s us alone that back away.

It’s us alone that has any kind of potential of kicking ourselves out or taking away promises we’ve made.

We, as a church, need to learn something from this event. We need to learn that the fight that really needs to be fought is the fight to win souls to Christ. No other agenda. No other reason to gain followers. No other reason to be involved. It’s to rise up as women and men in the gospel–together–to reach others and to stand for what’s not necessarily popular, but what is true. It’s to use our talents and our time and our enthusiasm to better the world, to heed God’s word, and to always succumb to humility before pride. It’s to practice our faith in our covenants and to remember the validity of the promises we make. It’s to remember that sometimes the good fight lies in what’s least popular in society.

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Elder Hales once said, “If you judge your actions and the standards of the Church on the basis of where the world is and where it’s going, you will find that you are not where you should be.”

While I hurt for the damage the heated debate has done to so many, I also hurt for Kate. And we should. Because simply put–there’s room here.

From the moment she commented on my blog months ago in response to my first opinion article I have had respect for her leadership skills, her zeal, her drive. I know for a fact that she’s someone who could lead in so many capacities that are offered in this gigantic church and someone who could easily lead others to Christ. I know for a fact she still has that chance.

A day will come, I hope, where she–and others in her shoes–will realize that there is no grand jury forcing members to leave. There is no group of meaningless, hard-hearted men who insist on forcing out the women. No. instead there are closed eyes and bent knees and clasped hands praying…praying…praying for a safe return from a thwarted course.

I am one of those praying.

 

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The Mormon Controversy: And why it’s hurting more than feminists

The headlines are everywhere. You seriously can’t miss it, even if you deliberately set out to NOT find it.

It’s a Mormon feminist controversy that’s triggering debates, memes, articles, furiously-written status updates, and doubts. It all started with a movement called Ordain Women, and since then it’s transformed and morphed into conversations about possible pending excommunications, human rights, sexism, and faults within the way the Mormon church is run.

I’ve sat back since writing my first article regarding Mormon feminists and have simply watched it happen, realizing that if I stay on board this train it might negatively impact my readers. And from the looks of other blogs, other Mormon writers, and even other friends who simply continue to voice opinions on how the church needs to change, I can see that I was right. This conversation is not just a church conversation now. It’s a world conversation. And it’s hurting more than Mormon feminists.

On what started out as a cry for understanding among church leaders has now taken a turn to be a cry into the world, prompting non-members and those of different faiths to feel sorry for us, fight harder against our teachings, and look toward the Mormon church with distaste. Friends of mine who at one point took genuine interest in learning about my church now see the articles and the heatwave from this controversy and say beneath their breath, “Looks like I was right all along. It’s a man’s church.”

And it’s not. We’re spreading lies–most of the time unintentionally.

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Now I’m an advocate for questions. As a journalist it’s in my nature to be quizzical *and often skeptical* and to always ask “Well, why’s that?”. But I also firmly believe that you need to pay attention to who you’re asking the questions to, and what your motive behind the question is. Your question might be someone else’s stumbling block.

The group of women who first rose up with this question had every right to ask the questions within their church community, to their bishops, counselors, home teachers, or spouses. They had every right to pray and ask of God and to do scripture searching and soul searching to identify their pains, seek answers, and find peace. But the opportunity left as soon as packs of people demanded to be let in to priesthood session, held signs in public that non-members in passing could read and shake their heads at, spoke to newspaper reporters about the oppression of the church, and spoke negatively about a church they often say they love. Questions turned into protests and backlash and anger that were soon fanning the flames of contempt against an already misunderstood gospel.

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And it breaks my heart.

I’ve seen bloggers and columnists say that it breaks their hearts that these feminists are hurting. I understand that.

But it breaks my heart even more that these personal struggles are thwarting God’s work. What should have been a personal journey for answers has turned into a hiccup for my friend who had one foot in the door and now hesitates to believe me when I say that I’m an equal with my husband. It has turned into debates about equality instead of conversations about a loving Heavenly Father who values his daughters and sons equally and gives them such significant roles in life. It has turned missionaries away from doors because of misconceptions, and it has turned active members into bitter, saddened skeptics who listen to the voices screaming from the internet rather than the gentle, truthful voice of the spirit.

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When Christ walked the earth, not once did he sit before his disciples and spark doubt by asking one of them why something had to be. In fact, in the darkest of times, even the times when he felt betrayed by God, he went on his knees before anything–privately communing with the One who gives answers to all questions. It’s okay, obviously, to discuss issues among those whom you trust or who might have advice or an answer to help you, but why discuss things among those whom you’re trying to uplift, strengthen, or teach? Especially on social media, when countless eyes are watching you and learning about your religion through what you say?

We’re forgetting who we are.

We’re forgetting why we’re here.

And worst of all–we’re hurting those we’ve been sent to help. And that’s the biggest shame of all.

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Motherhood is for everyone

Her name is Jasmine.

Actually I think her name is something else but she told me she likes to change her name every day for fun. I guess yesterday was a “Jasmine” kind of day.

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She loves the color purple. She wants to be a soccer star when she grows up.

She smiles all the time and pretends she’s a princess. And yet–life is hard for her.

Throughout the day I learned that Jasmine’s sister died, her mother can hardly take care of her, and she’s never met her dad. So she comes here after school to play, get help with math homework, and have something to eat.

I wasn’t sure what to expect yesterday when I went with my company to do volunteer work at a group home. But I certainly didn’t expect to meet Jasmine–or any of the other twenty-something kids who seemed to just blow in with the wind.

These kids come every day after school since they have nowhere else to go. They’re wandering souls not yet immune to the poison of a hard world.  My heart couldn’t help but break as I scanned the room that day. A group of teenage boys sat alone at a table playing a card game and erupted into laughter and playful jests as soon as someone won. A toddler sat on someone’s lap, his shirt soaked with apple juice. A group of young girls with braided hair and pink shoes formed a circle in a far corner, talking with their hands. So many kids. So many struggles. So little moms.

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And then, of course, Jasmine broke my train of thought.

“Do you have kids?” she asked me. I shook my head no.

“Well, you can be MY mom now!” she exclaimed during snack time.

And the words struck me.

Maybe it struck me because I’m not yet a mom–and because of medical reasons, it’ll be awhile before I am. Maybe it struck me because motherhood always went hand in hand in my mind with pregnancy, painting a new nursery, or driving a car strapped down with car seats. It never really struck me before that moment that I can still be a mom. So can you.

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It really is the most sacred calling.

I have a world against me on that opinion– I realize this. You might be too.

Bloggers, columnists, extreme feminists and modern-day thinkers join in a fight against motherhood. Motherhood is restricting, they’ll say. Motherhood is a 1950’s approach to oppressing women. Motherhood, some say, is for those women who don’t have any other ambitions in life or for those who wind up chained down. And with this line of thinking we slowly forget what being a mom even is. We forget that it’s all about reaching out to someone who needs it. It’s about selflessness. Mentorship. Nurturing. Compassion. God’s work.

I think back now to not only my amazing Mom, but the countless other women along the way who loved me, taught me, sacrificed for me, and wound up on their knees for me. They were women who had no children of their own, women who had quite a few mouths to feed at home, women who were young, women who were so old that I only remember them in my early childhood memories. They were women who taught me patience or music or writing well or faith in God. Women who stayed after school to help me with long division. They were strong, selfless, beautiful women consistently taking on the role of mother. Those are the women I remember.

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We aren’t called to live a life dedicated to ourselves. It’s never the reason we came. And I’m tired of living in a world where selflessness is equated with weakness.

Elder Holland once said in an address, The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.”

It’s always been worth it.

Eve understood this when she stepped out of Eden just so we could be born. Sarai understood this when Abraham told her their generations would be as numerous as the stars and she thanked God for it. Mary understood it when she rearranged her entire life and lost friends and a good reputation all to make way for the Savior. Jesus himself understood the value of motherhood when some of the last words he spoke were to John, asking him to take care of his mother. From the beginning of time we’ve been reminded of our responsibility to God’s children and the eternal principle of it. Why have we forgotten?

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Be the woman that changes everything for someone. Jasmine’s simple, childlike plea reminded me of the urgency of it all.

Whether you have six children or no children, whether you grew up in a home with a mother who loved you or a home without one present–be someone’s rescue, if only for a period of time in their lives.

Be someone’s mom.

Oh, and I promise you–it’s not old fashioned to change the world.

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