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 no such thing as being ‘drunk in love’, Beyonce: And our kids need to learn that.

I must be getting old.

Because more and more our society surprises me. And not in a good way.

The other night one of the anchors at the station that I work at came in with her I-Pod and a wide-eyed expression.

“Have you heard the song ‘Drunk in Love’ from Beyonce yet?” she asked me. No, I hadn’t. In fact, I tend to be horrible with song names, especially when 95 percent of mainstream music all sounds the same anyway.

“Well, don’t!” she warned before I could say anything. “It’s the most explicit song I’ve ever heard. And that’s saying something.”

Well, here’s something to learn about me. If you tell me not to do something, I’m like a toddler with a hot stove. I’ll touch it. And then I’ll regret it within seconds. So, like clockwork, I punched the song title into youtube and could barely get through the entire video–complete with lyrics–before I exited out of the tab and realized my jaw had gone slack. I knew mainstream culture was headed down an ugly path with sexual innuendos and half-naked advertisements and rappers going off about drugs and clubs and trigger-happy gangs. But still, time and again, the media and society prove to me that, oh just you wait–it can and WILL get so much worse.

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I decided I’d never listen to that song again. Until I heard it tonight after stepping into a store on my break to look around and I almost got whacked in the face with the glass door. The kid ahead of me, no older than seventeen, let it fall behind him even though I entered right after him and his blond girlfriend. The couple held a phone between the two of them that played that darn song again and as I walked slowly through the racks and aisles I could hear them chattering over the music and making a mess out of the spring dress aisle. They laughed and more than once I overheard him call her a name no woman should ever be called. When they were in view I could tell she was getting annoyed with him and pushed him a couple times when he touched her from behind and told her she was acting dumb. Drunk in love.

The scene played out perfectly to the music I think.

And somewhere, underneath the annoyance that had built up since getting hit by the door he failed to hold open, I felt a hint of sadness that our kids, some as young as five and others as old as me, are being taught what love is by the lyrics of songs like these. They’re being shown what love is in movie theaters and on billboards and reality TV.

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And the music of the world is loud.

Chivalry slowly dies with each generation as ladies forget how to be ladies and as gentleman are no longer instructed to open the door. Girls are being instructed by these lyrics to raise the hemlines of skirts and put up with being used and slobbered over like a steak because THAT is how you get love. Boys are being told to take control, to seek after sex whenever it’s wanted, and to mistreat their mothers, their girlfriends, and their future wives. Girls are subtly told to look up to the women who are photoshopped on magazines and who belt out sassy tunes about “giving it all up” while boys are told girls SHOULD look that way…and should give it up.

Do I sound old-fashioned? If the answer you came up with is yes, than that proves to me how far we’ve fallen. I don’t know why respecting ourselves and striving for love that respects and strengthens and empowers us has become a vintage antique on a dusty shelf. 

Even Heavenly Father knew this time would come, though. It’s something we all have to prepare for. In Isaiah 5:20 it says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”

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Bitter, drunk love. I couldn’t help but watch these teenagers chat alongside those lyrics as I browsed the store, wondering about the voice of his mother or the advice of her father. Perhaps they were taught everything right and the world just became too loud. Perhaps they were taught only by the world and no one else. Or maybe things have become so perverted, so mangled and distorted–that there’s nothing out of the ordinary with singing along to, “Can’t keep your eyes off my *****, daddy. Drunk in love, I want you.”

I’m not a mother yet and I can’t imagine the difficulties of raising a child in a world that no longer whispers, but screams. I don’t know everything there is to know about child rearing or advising or guiding and I’m not here to say that I do. But I do know that Satan is attacking everything that Heavenly Father put into place. Family. Marriage. Love. Kindness.

And I know that the only way to not be for it is to be against it. Dress against it. Listen against it. Speak against it. Teach your kids against it. Walk against it.

Because we’re falling, and fast. Yes, there’s good in the world. Of course there is. But we still have far to go as society is in rapid decline within the media and within our culture.

There should be more boys opening doors. There should be more girls demanding respect by what they say and wear and do. There should be more role models to look towards other than pop stars in bikinis and actors with three women on their arms. There should be more love–the real kind of love that is slowly becoming old-fashioned and out-of-date. 

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There’s no such thing as being “drunk in love” like the song states. There’s no such thing as love that comes from one-night stands or “smoking all night” or giving in to something that’s so plainly wrong. There’s no such thing as happiness through defilement. 

The scary thing is– the world and all things that tear holes in the fabric of truth know that those messages aren’t real. But it wants you to be so “drunk” that you forget it..

And it wants our kids to never learn it.

Women in the home are exceptional: A letter to a feminist blogger

Dear Amy,

I read your blog post yesterday.

This one, to be exact: “I look down on young women with husbands and kids and I’m not sorry”.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I was stunned. I read almost every comment on your blog and I know for  sure that I’m not alone in the category of “jaw-dropped-women”. But before you click out of this post and think this is just one more hateful monologue about your writing–let me first say this. Just a few years ago, I agreed with you. I’m ashamed to say it now. But I won’t deny it. I believed the lie. And let me tell you, in a kind way of course, why it’s in fact a lie.

As you can read from my biography and as you can see from all my social media platforms–I’m a career woman too, just like you. It’s always been in my blood. Like you, I get a thrill from traveling. I live off of the adrenaline that pumps through my blood under deadlines. I’m a busy bee–a workaholic at times, even. And I enjoy tackling challenges, probably like you do. And just like you, I’m a writer.

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And much like you express in your letter (though I wasn’t exactly as heated about the topic) I tended to wonder why not EVERY woman wanted opportunity to step out into the world and take it in her hands and mold it into the shape she wanted. Why didn’t every woman want to get a degree and climb corporate ropes and BE something valuable and highly-esteemed? I didn’t want to disappear. It wasn’t that I looked down on women in the home, I just didn’t want to be that woman.

You said in your post, “You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids”. And within a young mind, I believed that because that’s what the world whispered to me. Rise above your gender roles, it said to me.

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But then, I started my career. I bought my own groceries and I paid my own bills. I had viral blog posts *like you* and I had plenty of bylines to stack up my resume.

But you want to know something? I noticed that at the end of the day, when the stories are written and the projects are done–all I want is to come home and talk to my husband. The “ball and chain” people speak of makes life exceptional. At the end of the day, before I go to any CEO or big-wig director with a concern, I’ll go to my mom. Because she created an exceptional life for me. She is exceptional.

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During visits to see my nephews and nieces and holiday functions (that I actually get off from work), I watch my sisters-in-law with awe as they carry a baby on one hip and wipe sticky goop from a toddler’s hair with another, all while carrying on an intelligent conversation with the rest of us. They are exceptional to me.

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My greatest teachers in my life never stood at the front of a boardroom. They waited at the bus stop for me. They gave me cough medicine at 3 in the morning. They married me at an altar and promised to put up with my not-so-nice days. They held me when no one understood and they worked odd jobs and sacrificed it all to stay home and make sure I had after-school snacks and help with my math. They raised my nephews and nieces with tenderness that taught me patience and compassion. They showed me what it means to live an exceptional life–what it means to be exceptional.

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You say that “doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business”. I know how it may look like that, Amy. But I also know that when I threw up all over my sheets in the middle of the night when I was just 7-years-old and my mother woke up to wash, dry, and fold them right back over my bed, humming a song as she scratched my back and put me to sleep again, she was doing a work far greater than building any business. She was building me.

That is exceptional.

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From the ones raising CEO’s to the CEO’s themselves–every moving part is vital to humanity’s progression. From the mother who wakes up nine times in the night to soothe a crying baby to the lawyer who falls asleep on a desk of work–the dedication and resilience is astounding to me. And exceptional.

As women we need to stand together, Amy. We need to remind the world of why mothers and wives and husbands and those within the walls of our homes help build nations. We need to stick together and cheer each other on for building families, building businesses, building futures, building homes and most importantly–building people.

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We need to remind the world of the courageousness and importance of womanhood. That, my friend, is what’s truly and undeniably exceptional.

All my best,

A fellow blogger

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”.

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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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