Speaking of Excommunication

One thing that has certainly been making the news during my time in Utah is the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement. As well John Dehlin of Mormon Stories Podcast and Alan Rock Waterman of the Pure Mormonism Blog have been given notice of possible excommunication, outcome pending.

Kate Kelly has very publically spoken out and brought others to speak out against the LDS churches policy on the Priesthood authority being for men alone. She has made it clear that even despite the excommunication her petitioning for this will carry on. While this has caught my interest I have, so far not felt I had anything to add to this, from my perspective the LDS Priesthood authority is redundant, Aaron Shafovaloff of Mormonism Research Ministry put it excellently.

Kate Kelly should call for the excommunication of all Mormon men, since all of them claim to have an Aaronic priesthood that only descendants of Aaron have, and a Melchizedek priesthood that only Jesus Christ has. (See Hebrews 7-10)

The New Testament priesthood duty is to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus, something every Christian can do (1 Peter 2:9). New Testament teachings on church leadership, elders, and authority have nothing to do with Aaron or Melchizedek priesthood. They are partly based on gender design, gender duties, creation order, and the order of the Fall.

Aaronic priesthood was never given by ordination, but rather by birthright. Jesus’ priesthood was of a divine oath and an “indestructible life” (Hebrews 7). Nobody should ask for this priesthood because Jesus fulfilled it, will never die, and can save “to the uttermost” those who draw near to God through him.

From the perspective of the LDS church, Kate has brought others along in her “apostasy”, therefore its hard to argue against them on this. As this has been their policy for many years and has happened time and time again. This is not a quiet disagreement that Kate Kelly has brought to the church, however as she is still a believer I do feel bad for what she will be going through as a result of this, and I am by no means saying I support the decision. I think the public response to this which is already well underway will be interesting to see.

However, I was thinking about an example of an excommunication in the book The Miracle of Forgiveness, which was written by 10th Mormon Prophet  Spencer W Kimball when he was an apostle. This has never left me since I first read it.

Years ago, a missionary in South America wrote a long letter of confession. He had broken the law of chastity. No one but the young girl and himself knew of the transgression, but he had promptly gone to his mission president and confessed it in total. This missionary had been a member of the Church but a few months, and his many years of adulthood while “of the world” had produced a weakness hard to overcome. He quoted, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” He did not excuse himself, nor claim any special immunities, nor rely on extenuating circumstances. He said: “I knew I had to pay the full penalty, I knew that in life or death I had to answer for the sin. I wanted to get it over with and be on my way to eventual forgiveness. I would rather confess, take my punishment, and get back as soon as possible on the road to forgiveness, and I did not want my eternity cluttered with these blemishes.” He was excommunicated from the Church. After what seemed an eternity to him, through his faithfulness and repentance he was baptized and finally his priesthood and temple blessings were restored to him. He found peace through complete repentance of which his total, voluntary confession was a vital part.

I have always found this example as utterly heartbreaking. This young missionary made a mistake, was utterly,
open, sorry and repentant and was punished (yes it says punishment) by the means of excommunication.
It makes me think of this story with Christ.

John 8:1-11 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Neither do I condemn thee, Jesus said. You are excommunicated the Mormon Church says, quite a contrast. To be fair some people may not know that there is a Biblical precedence for removing someone from the church.  This would appear to be more focused on protecting the church from unrepentant sinners that may cause harm to others. Here it is, apologies for all the quotes.

Matthew 18:15-17

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Where did this happen to that missionary? One mistake and he was out.To say that we need to pay a penalty or be punished for our sins totally undermines the power of the Atonement, He Himself bore our sins (1 Peter 2:24) no church or organization has the power to punish us again for what Christ has already paid the price for. This is something I have been challenging people with when witnessing at Manti, the gospel of the grace of Christ is so removed from the performance based gospel of Mormonism. I hope that Kate Kelly and others come to this gospel of grace.

Romans 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


24 thoughts on “Speaking of Excommunication”

  1. It is interesting to actually look at the word excommunication and what it actually means in relation to what the various churches especially the LDS take it to mean.
    Ex is from the Latin meaning From or outside of and excommunicatio meaning communication.
    Both the LDS and the Roman Catholics today like to pretend that communio is the root Latin word from which excommunication is derived meaning disallowed or being outside of the holy communion or Eucharist , this is simply not true. (that word would be extracommunion)

    Excommunication means to be denied communication with God (and his mercy), which of course in the primitive church meant automatic damnation. In those days it was believed a priest was necessary to act as an intermediary between man and God and that direct prayer was impossible.
    Without Communication via the church, the afterlife was at best eternal purgatory, at worst damnation. A terrifying prospect to those whose whole theological education amounted to “Do as the priest says and don’t try and translate the Bible or you WILL burn forever”

    When Joseph Smith adopted the practice of Excommunication he obviously did not engage his powers of inspired translation because he obviously had no idea what the word meant.
    To Smith excommunication simply meant banishment from the church and the negation of their LDS baptism (another word for which he had no understanding of the actual meaning, to him Baptism was (and still is to the LDS as a whole is) an initiation ritual in to “church” privileges that can be revoked by man, rather than an eternal covenant between the supplicant and his or her God)

    The Excommunication of Kate Kelly is a nonsense carried out for nonsensical reasons and only serves to high light the sexist stance of the LDS, the childish “Only Boys allowed” phallocentric mentality of the old men who run the organisation and terrible presumption and arrogance of men who claim to on the one hand know the will of God and yet on the other hand claim that said will of God can change when it is politically expedient as it did in 1978.

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    1. “The Excommunication of Kate Kelly is a nonsense carried out for nonsensical reasons and only serves to high light the sexist stance of the LDS, the childish “Only Boys allowed” phallocentric mentality of the old men who run the organisation and terrible presumption and arrogance of men who claim to on the one hand know the will of God and yet on the other hand claim that said will of God can change when it is politically expedient as it did in 1978.”

      Take a breath please. Our entire secular and religious culture from day one has been patriarchal.

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      1. Actually, only modern (that is in the sense of the last 4000 years) monotheistic religions have been patriarchal, many of the older and still existent alternate religious movements favour neither gods or goddess’ over one another and most of the progenitors of monotheistic regions were Matriarchal. Even today we still talk of Mother Earth the original “day one ” Deity.

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      2. So, what’s your pt? Are you creating a distinction between “day one” and 4000 year ago?. My oh my, what record of worship exists from 4,000 years ago? Are you aware that the entire planets population was less populous than the island of Manhattan today? good luck.

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      3. I’m sorry are you being facetious are serious?
        Plenty of evidence and written records of worship are found in Egypt, Mesopotania, China, Suma and plenty of other places dating from at least the 4th millennia BCE much of it relating to history going back through oral tradition for anything up to six thousand years before that.
        This is to say nothing of statuary and imagery going back many more thousands of years, again usually religious items of nature and mother earth goddess worship.

        As for where you get the idea that the world population was less than 3,000,000 people (island of Manhattan current population at that census 2.6 Million people) in the year 6000 BC I have no idea, that is utter nonsense
        At highly conservative estimate between the years 10,000 BC to the year 6,000 BCE archaeological records indicate a population level of

        2.4 million in the middle east extrapolated to 10 million world wide at 10,000 BCE
        to
        11.46 million in the middle east extrapolated to 17 million world wide at approximately 6000 BCE

        By 2000BC the numbers have reached 115,065,666 in the middle east and 50,000,000 world wide

        This holds to a fairly consistent growth in population curve until the 19th/20th centuries when advances in medical science caused as sudden and dramatic rise.

        So I do hope you are joking otherwise I suggest doing some serious research before embarrassing yourself further.

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  2. You seem to misunderstand excommunication in just the way that the South American missionary did, Bobby.
    One of the primary purposes of excommunication is to relieve you of the burden of keeping covenants which you are incapable of, or unwilling to keep.
    Kate is not currently keeping her side of the commitment and would be under condemnation for this, not by the Mormon church, but by God. Excommunication relieves her of this accountability until such a time that she is prepared once again to enter into the covenant fully.
    Although we call it “Church Discipline”, it isn’t punishment. It’s helping members become better disciples of Christ in the most appropriate and loving way this can be achieved.

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    1. “Kate is not currently keeping her side of the commitment and would be under condemnation for this, not by the Mormon church, but by God. ”
      How does that work?
      You presume to know the mind of God?
      What commandment has Kate broken to be under condemnation by God. I don’t recall the passage in the BOM or the HB that says thou shall not have free speech.
      Kate is a fully active Mormon, how is she not keeping her side of the Baptismal covenant?
      In the Excommunication letter published in the Salt Lake Tribune the reason given for Kate’s excommunication is that she has persistently undermined the Faith of other church members. How has she done this?
      Your answer makes no logicial or Theological sense Magic Fingers.
      You know as well as I do Kate was excommunicated only because the church could not stop her talking sense and so decided to undermine her arguments by branding her a “sinner”

      Personally I think she is better off without such a dinosaur of an organisation, who if they cannot see the value of having a progressive, articulate person on side, frankly don’t deserve her anyway

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      1. Thank you Michael for providing the link to the document I was discussing
        as is state thus the “Problem” that lead to the excommunication of Sister Kelly is stated therein thus

        “The difficulty, Sister Kelly, is not that you say you have questions or even that you
        believe that women should receive the priesthood. The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other Church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others.”

        How did she erode the faith of others?
        It is ridiculous, unless that faith is so weak that one person standing up her own rights as a human being IS a genuine threat to that faith, if so the problem lays not with Sister Kelly but with the foundations upon which that faith stands

        see Matthew 7:24-27

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      2. Interesting article that ultimately say Kate Kelly was not excommunicated for asking questions, she was excommunicated for holding and expressing an opinion and a belief that was not an official church teaching.
        Wow! Well then why has not Brigham Young gone through postMortem excommunication, the Journal of discourses is full of teachings he declared to be scriptural but which the LDS today TOTALLY disavow as official teaching. Same with President Snow for his trouble some as God once was rhyme , Bruce R. McConkie for his misnamed book of prejudices Mormon Doctrine and a dozen others.
        Why? Oh yes that’s right, because all of them were men, where as Kate is a jumped up chit of a girl who, ” was not, is not, never has been, in a position to receive revelation for the entire church” which is not something she has EVER claimed to be.

        Kate Kelly has demanded the right for women to be treated as equal to men, she has demanded it of the church and yes indirectly she has demanded it of God, who has set biblical precedent on these matters.

        Luke 18:3
        Matthew 7:7-8
        1 Samuel 1:15-18
        Acts 18:26
        Judges 4:4
        Judges 5:7-8

        to name but a few

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      3. henry,
        That’s a red herring (Ignoratio elenchi); it’s an intentional fallacy. This discussion is about the former Mormon, Kate Kelly, not assorted Presidents of the Church.

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      4. No robinobishop, it is not Ignoratio elenchi, as I made no attempt to divert or change the argument, it is was not a red herring either for similar reasons, if you are going to quote rules of rhetoric please read the whole of the article before you cherry pick it.
        I was making a case for defiance of established precedent, in that those who have done that of which sister Kelly stands accused have not suffered the same punishment.
        If you were as clever as you think you are you would not have used the Continuum fallacy as a thinly disguised Ad hominem attack. The best you might have been able to accuse me of is argumentum ad antiquitatem (Appeal to tradition) but of course you did not and now I have saved you the trouble.

        Now have anything to say about the actual points I made regarding biblical precedent the the fact that the whole of the excommunication was unjust and in defiance of theological and moral lore?

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      5. “I was making a case for defiance of established precedent, in that those who have done that of which sister Kelly stands accused have not suffered the same punishment.”

        Right. You have substituted people totally foreign to this entire discussion for the former Mormon and official apostate, Mrs. Kelly.

        If you have anything at all to say in defense of Kelly, as in her high regard of Priesthood authority as presently constituted in the Church, present it.

        A Red Herring is not a “rule of rhetoric”; it is a deliberate logical fallacy.

        I can appreciate that little Johnny down the street regularly dumps a big one on the middle of the family pool table and is not properly punished. My dear son, Henry, should you dump even a small one on our family pool table, you will receive a scalding of your behind end because those are the rules of this house.

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    2. Poop jokes? Really?
      I think that brings an end to this discussion, and adequately shows the level your mind operates on.

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  3. Well said Magic Fingers! I have been personally involved in many disciplinary council with 2 scheduled for tonight. One of them is to consider restoration of blessings. This particular individual has had her life transformed through Jesus Christ since the time of her first disciplinary council and now she feels prepared to live up to the covenants with Christ made through baptism. She’s delighted to experience the atonement of Jesus Christ in her life and this disciplinary (disciple) process has helped her to do so.
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865605558/How-LDS-Church-disciplinary-councils-work-changes-lives.html

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  4. Every organisation has some sort of system formal or otherwise, that sets out the rules of admittance to membership and on-going membership. I hold three public accounting designations in two countries. There are rules of admittance and rules to which I must conform as a member. I cannot be dishonest or behave in a way which brings the profession into disrepute. If I seriously violate those rules of professional conduct, I will be fined and excluded from membership and not longer entitled to use the letters after my name. I would not be surprised if I was excluded, I know the rules and if I break them, I know I am out.

    The same goes for the University where I work. We have a conflict of interest policy. If I breach that policy then I will face discipline from my employer which could result in my exclusion from the University as an employee. Of course, as a half time student, I also face rules that govern my academic behaviour. I know the rules and submit to them, they make sense.

    It sounds like there are some rules that govern continued membership in the Mormon community. I don’t know what they are, but the Mormons may make their rules, interpret their rules and publish them so people know them.

    If there are rules and I don’t know them, I should still be able to appreciate that if my actions lead to embarrassment or division of the organisation, my acceptance by that organisation may be in turn threatened. In asking to be ordained, Kate Kelly did not do anything wrong, but she did show that she lacks, in my opinion, an understanding of Mormon doctrine.

    Mormonism cannot ordain women. The Mormon gospel would cease being what it is. A man goes to the temple and is sealed to his opposite sex spouse. Both persons have a new name, the man learns the women’s name so that he can take her through the veil into the glory of the afterlife. The woman does not learn the man’s name. She doesn’t need to know it, as it is the man who calls the woman in the resurrection to him, and any other woman he is sealed to. This is one example only, and to ordain women is to turn this divinely given order upside down. It is to actually admit that Joseph Smith got it wrong, that the order of the sexes in the eternal kingdom is not what he said it was.

    Kate Kelly challenged the order and structure of the church, not by asking that women be allowed to participate more fully in the church hierarchy as Sunday School Presidents, Ward Clerks, Stake Executive Secretaries and so forth. Women are already over men when men serve as Primary teachers. It is not a great stretch to build on that and take it further. That wonderful institution of the Anglican Communion serves as a progressive example to the Ordain Women movement.

    Kate Kelly was told a number of times, that her message had been heard, it was not agreed with and that she should stop, her actions were deemed embarrassing and out of step with views that could be accommodated within Mormonism. I agree that she aired her views freely and no one said she couldn’t. However, once it was clear that she was offside, the organisation acted within its rights to exclude her from participating. I have no problem with it at all.

    Do I think that women should be involved in the Mormon Organisation more fully? Yes I do and it would be easy to remove the administrative practice that keeps them from those positions I mentioned above. There is no doctrine that keeps them from those roles, only an administrative practice. it would be easier to give women those roles than it was to give blacks the priesthood.

    Kate Kelly was not challenging the patriarchy, she was challenging foundational doctrines associated with the core beliefs of the church. She should only have received what she should have expected. That she was genuinely surprised by the outcome strikes me as surprising.

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    1. Had your point been valid Michael McAlpine every religious reformer, including Jesus, would have been striped of membership and ignored throughout history. Christianity if it still existed at all would be a minor variation on Judaism, practices by a few people in Israel, thee would have been no St.Paul, no apostles spreading the Gospel, no split between the eastern orthodox and the Roman Catholic faiths, no reformers, no Protestantism and no Joseph Smith.
      All religions are progressive, all change and adapt to (hopefully) the greater good
      You say “Mormonism cannot ordain women. The Mormon gospel would cease being what it is.” the same argument was used against giving women the vote, giving women equal pay giving women equal rights and specifically against the ordination of Women in the C of E, it did not destroy the church of England and has in fact strengthened it, it did not destroy the work places of the world by paying women the same as men. it did not destroy parliamentary democracy by letting women vote.
      If the God of the LDS could disallow the ordination of black men until 1978, he can under appeal from his own prophet do the same again for his daughters in 2014.
      Kate Kelly believes this and has been punished for holding and propagating that belief, when it does happen I hope she feels it has been a pain worth enduring

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