Part III: A serious conclusion: What if I have questions?
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve’s statement read, in part:
We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.
Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.
Kelly, certain that this cannot possibly apply to her and her group, has now declared that this means that:
“Now questions [about women’s ordination] can be asked in every ward and every branch in every place in the world…. The prophet of the church said it’s OK.”
In one of the drier moments of understatement you are likely to see this year, the Tribune then noted, “Few other Mormons read the statement in the same way.”
(Doubtless accurate, except Kelly is not a Mormon anymore, having been excommunicated. More properly, then “Few Mormons read the statement” as she does.)
But, seriously folks….
However, in an effort to help Kelly’s apparent difficulties with either honesty or reading comprehension, I close with the advice which Brother Otterson of Church Public Affairs offered to those who do have genuine questions or concerns about this issue.
Otterson responded directly to the concern that, “There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.”
This is a fair and legitimate concern, and I think much of the rather limited success that OW and Kelly have had is due to this type of issue—I think the vast majority of LDS women are not really comfortable with their goals, tone, or approach. But, they are at least saying something, and that can be refreshing to those who genuinely have concerns in this area—often with considerable justification, as Elder Ballard has been telling us for at least two decades.
So, what does Church Public Affairs (and, thus, those to whom it answers) recommend in such cases?
This is a serious question and I think is the kind of discussion that the Brethren welcome as they seek to understand the concerns of the members. My advice is to be patient, and trust in those whom we sustain as apostles and prophets and the revelatory process.
As we have said, most bishops, stake presidents and local leaders do a remarkable job. Sometimes, men and women in wards take offense when counsel is given. And, yes, sometimes we don’t handle things well.
First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.
Second, every member, whether man or woman, should initiate such an interview with a willingness to take counsel as well as deliver a message.
Third, every ward also has a Relief Society presidency. While matters of personal worthiness must remain a matter between the member and the bishop who is a “common judge,” other matters of personal concern to a woman can be voiced privately to faithful Relief Society Presidency members and other local leaders. Without becoming an advocate, such a confidante could not only offer counsel but could be invited to accompany a sister to see a bishop or a stake president in some circumstances.
Note the recommendations: these are private conversations (not held in media circuses), conducted locally (instead of trying to force events at the general Church level), and they are conducted in a spirit of meekness. We do these things individual to individual, and there is nothing about trying to drum up support or stir resentment or pool our grievances with others, in person or on-line. And so, unsurprisingly, this has not been welcome advice in some quarters.
None of that advice has been taken by OW and Kelly, which sadly—but unsurprisingly—has led to her excommunication.
(Indeed, the only ones who seem surprised at her excommunication seem to be Kelly and her supporters—which again makes me wonder about either delusion or dishonesty.)
The Lord’s way has never been about public spectacle, confrontation, unilateral demands, or posturing.
Instead, sincere members who love each other and the Lord seek only to do his will, and to help each other bear the separate burdens that come to all in different forms.
I trust my readers will be more perceptive and more teachable than Kelly has been. She has had ample opportunity, but seems unreachable.
It almost makes you think she wasn’t actually asking a question at all.
 “Top Mormon leaders repeat ‘only men’ qualify for priesthood,” Salt Lake Tribune (28 June 2014).