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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There’s nothing wrong with pink: My response to a feminist message

A couple days ago I saw this video–it’s an advertisement for GoldieBlox, a new engineering toy for girls. You might have seen it too, floating around your social media feeds. When I watched this, I instantly felt a little disturbed.

The girls are adorable and it’s a fun set up (I wanted to help build that thing!) but there was a blatant message strewn as subtitles across the screen that rubbed me the wrong way.

In the quirky song it proclaims that girls’ toys all look the same–that there is too much pink and they want to start using their brains.

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And in the very beginning of the video three bored little girls are even watching a princess show that is made out to look like unintelligent jibber jabber. So what do the girls do? They declare, more or less, that boys get all the toys that create an intellectual stretch and they want that too. Even the caption to this viral video states, “Fewer than 3 in 10 graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl’s life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don’t encourage her to enter those fields.”

I call bull.

The lyrics in that video, first off, *I could bet money on it*–weren’t written by little girls. They were written by adults in a society where women want to be empowered and strike down stereotypes to the point where there is no more distinction on what girls may prefer or what boys may prefer. They were written by a world that equates pink and princesses and unicorns and tea sets to a gender that never rises above or gets an education or steps outside of the home.

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Now, just to make sure you don’t take me wrong–I’m not saying girls should be limited to playing with dolls. I just didn’t think that was an issue worth calling out. Growing up, I had a fascination with Hot Wheels cars just as much as I did with my polly pocket collection. I ran around with bare feet in the summer catching frogs and I also loved to prance around the living room in my ballet tutu. There is no “Pink Police” catching girls in the act of doing something that might constitute as a boy behavior. We’re over that hump.

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Liking pink, dancing around in a princess dress one-size too big, and cradling a plastic baby doll isn’t a sign of weakness or unintelligence. It’s how females are often programmed. There have been multiple studies suggesting the scientific reason behind why women are generally drawn to pink more than men are. You can read one study right here.

But science and studies and societal norms aside, it’s time that we take a step back from feminist views and ask ourselves, as women, why we’re so afraid of being feminine. Why do we think the only ticket to Stanford is swearing off polka dots and skirts and being offended at the characteristic of “girly”? Why do we think that the only way to truly strive in today’s world is to break out of the mold that our great grandmothers and great-great grandmothers seemed to follow with their petticoats and sprayed hair and soft hands? Is it because we want to prove we’re somehow better…or smarter?

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One of my favorite actresses is Zooey Deschanel and she said something that really underscores this topic of being feminine in today’s society.

“My theory is that people in this day and age want to dismiss things. So they want to be able to dismiss you,” Deschanel says. “They say, ‘You don’t belong, you don’t deserve this because here’s why, and let me find an intellectual argument for why you wearing pink or cuff sleeves or a bow makes you not worthy of your accomplishments. Everything you’ve done doesn’t matter because you wore the wrong thing or you speak in a way that’s feminine or you identify yourself as feminine.’ And I just think that’s bull****. And smart people are doing it, and that’s surprising to me. I’ll give them being smart, but they’re being very shortsighted.”

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Love that.

Another quote I love is from “The Joy of Womanhood” talk given by Margaret D. Nadauld in 2000. She said, “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

The truth is–we aren’t put in a box, girls.

We can do anything and be anything.

But there’s nothing wrong with the way my niece’s eyes light up at a huge coloring page of a unicorn or the way my nephew giggles at the sight of a Nerf gun. It’s no “damage” of society that a two-year-old boy would rather kick a tea set than play with it and that a four-year-old girl will cry when he does so and kiss her baby’s head because, in her words, “it made the baby cry”.

Here is the deal sis

These kids haven’t been taught from society yet. They haven’t been told to be tougher or to play with “smarter” toys or to call out for a change on what they unwrap on Christmas day. If the little girls find joy in building blocks too–good. So did I. But that doesn’t mean they’re any smarter or headed down a better path with those toys than when they’re cradling a stuffed kitten with a pink collar.

There is nothing wrong with being feminine, despite what our society says. There’s nothing wrong with tackling an engineering major and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sports. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with NOT enjoying those things.

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There’s nothing wrong with NOT being an engineering major either, might I add. You can be a dancer, lost in sparkle and tight hair buns, or a mother with a handful of kiddos–and you are STILL a strong, smart woman who makes an impact on the world.

So, like the video does, I call out for change too.

Stop saying it’s bad to live the stereotypical traits of a girl.

Stop declaring, in essence, with propaganda in commercials and Hollywood and books, that women should become like men and if they exhibit any quality of a typical “girl” they aren’t using their brains or won’t go as far.

Stop taking the feminist movement so far that we lose our femininity.

Because there’s NOTHING wrong with preferring pink.

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