Don’t Ask. Don’t Seek. Don’t Knock.

Here are a few things I learned from the disciplinary action Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are threatened with:

  • The Ninth Article of Faith can pretty much be blotted out of the canon. As of 1842, there may have been “great and important” things still to be revealed. As of 2014, they have all been revealed, and we have no need of addressing new questions or receiving new revelation.
  • Jesus has been overruled. He said we should ask, seek, and knock. He was out of line. Asking is apostasy. The new rule is that your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him, so shut up!
  • Our God is a Correlated God. We don’t even need to limit ourselves to looking to scripture or prophets’ statements now to see the will of God. We simply need to look at the status quo in the Church to know God’s very mind. If there are organs and basketball hoops in our buildings, it is because God wills it. If lesson manuals are printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, it is because God wills that. And if, with no scriptural or prophetic basis, we have banned women from holding the priesthood, God must have willed that too.
  • Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “Come, Join with Us” wing of the Quorum of 15 isn’t as strong as Dallin H. Oaks’s “Would You Just Please Leave?” wing.
  • kate kelly and john dehlin utah pride parade 2014

  •  The PR department really is running the show in the Church. Kate’s informal discipline letter chastises her for “acting in public opposition to the Church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so.” Which leaders? Who counseled her not to have OW events? Her local leaders never wanted to meet with her. And of course general leaders made a point of ignoring her requests to meet. That leaves only the PR department. She went against the PR department’s counsel, and acted in opposition to the PR department, so she’s being disciplined.
  • The PR department clearly doesn’t even care to try to be subtle with lying anymore. The blatant misrepresentation of the OW event was bad enough, but at least it could only be refuted by people who were there. But the claim that the disciplinary actions are completely local is just absurd. That they would say this knowing that it’s not remotely believable is depressing.
  • The Church really isn’t Kate Kelly’s or John Dehlin’s or yours or mine. It’s President Monson’s and maybe the FP and Quorum of Twelve’s a little bit. If they and the PR department decide they want to excommunicate people for asking questions too persistently, they can do that. If they decide to excommunicate people for wearing pants, or for being left-handed, they can do that too. There’s not really any check on how ridiculous they can be.
  • The Church is not a safe place for people who have questions. Perhaps it never was, and I’m only now seeing its true nature revealed. It could have gone other ways, though. There are scriptures and words of prophets that could support a more inclusive version of the Church. But I’m afraid these disciplinary councils will cast a long shadow for a long time on any attempts to push for that. I am so sad. I had hoped for so much better.



  1. The Church is not a safe place for people who have questions. Perhaps it never was, and I’m only now seeing its true nature revealed.

    This is my thought as well. Was it all an illusion that we were making progress and becoming more open and diverse?

    There’s still time for the church to fix this, but I sincerely and sadly fear this moment is going to be an infamous milestone.

  2. One of the many things that contributes to my heartbreak over this latest event is the pain that I see my good, faithful, intelligent, selfless friends who have tried so hard to make it work and now, like me, are wondering if it is really worth it. The collateral damage of this action is immeasurable and it is devastating. So much love to you Ziff. I share your pain.

  3. Exactly! Thank you, Ziff. I had hoped for so much better, too. I’m at a loss about what to do now. How do I answer in my next temple recommend interview? Do I even bother renewing it? This whole thing is such a mess.

  4. The message seems to be: Do let the door hit you in the fanny on the way out.

    I’d hate to see the rose garden that is expansive Mormonism wither and turn back into a desert.

  5. “We don’t even need to limit ourselves to looking to scripture or prophets’ statements now to see the will of God. We simply need to look at the status quo in the Church to know God’s very mind.”

    You know how people in the Middle Ages “read” nature to determine God’s mind? I feel like Mormons should “read” The Church in the same way. In fact, I propose we introduce a new genre—the “apostolic bestiary.” We’ll construct a taxonomy of church leaders and use their behavior to teach moral lessons.

  6. Is human cloning a thing yet? Because I want to clone Elder Uchtdorf many many many times over.

    Also, I’m super duper hoping that the PR department is simply a rogue entity that will soon be vanquished. It’s a beautiful dream.

  7. The Correlated God says to tell you that the hymn books have always been green. The Correlated God is really fond of sameness and he doesn’t know what you mean about maroon or some such–green is the color. Also, PS, your genatalia determines everything about your calling in life and your role in the church. Why would you have questions about that?

  8. Sorry, but I don’t see this. They didn’t just question. Kate organized protests and they both publicly opined about how the prophet is wrong. That’s very different from all if what you just described.

  9. And how does the specific revelation a specific group of people want not coming mean the church is saying the heavens are closed?

  10. I don’t mean to brew contention, but could some please explain to me HOW and WHY an action that was supposed to be a church in-house affair became public?

  11. Oh Uchtdorf, how you gave me hope. Your vision of the Church was beautiful and I want to be a part of it. Sadly, that is not what the Church wants.

    You are but one man. Perhaps some day.

  12. Too right, Ziff! This is exactly what I want to say to everyone about this. I’m linking this post 100 times.

  13. Francis, the information became public because both Kate and John were backed into corners. Each of their letters stated that their Stake Presidents would be making the information public. John’s said his SP would be announcing it to the stake and Kate’s said the information would be shared with the public. What were they to do? Also, Kate wanted her supporters to realize what was at stake for publicly supporting her cause. I find that very noble and noble of the people who have profiles on her site because not one person has asked for their profile to be taken down. There’s no way this could have been kept “in house” their influence reaches thousands.

    As for this blog post, I am right there with you. I sympathize with Kate, but I am shattered over John. If he is an apostate, so am I. His doubts are my doubts, his questions my questions and if he isn’t welcomed as a member, where does that leave me?

  14. I feel like they’re saying, ‘Ok, we gave you women praying in General conference and the presidencies of the RS, Primary, and YW in the Ensign. Now shut up!”

    Not what I was hoping for. I don’t have an OW profile, I don’t really support the organization, and I’ve only listened to a few of John Dehlin’s podcasts, but their potential excommunications leave me feeling cold.

  15. My dreams of big table Mormonism have been shattered. I have been helping so many good people try to find their place here. It’s like a grenade went off in the middle of it all.

    Oh Uchtdorf, you built my hopes up too high.

  16. I don’t think it’s attributable to PR dept. I think there are forces (Q12) behind it pulling the strings – in this day and age it’s so much easier to throw them under the bus instead of being the “bad guy.”

  17. I have “lots of feelings” about this whole thing, as my daughter would say. I think it’s all very tragic. At the same time, I was cringing because it was pretty obviously coming. The irresistable force was cruising full-speed toward the immovable object. Here’s my reasoning:

    Words matter. Language has meaning. Kate Kelly knows this; as an attorney, it’s how she makes her living.

    The OW mission statement is very clear. It doesn’t really leave room for revelation, it doesn’t seek further guidance from prophetic leadership. It states that the OW movement “believes women _must_ be ordained”, is “_committed to work_ for equality and the ordination of Mormon women”, and they state that they “intend to put [them]selves in the public eye and call attention to the _need_ for the ordination of Mormon women” [emphases added]. That is not a humble, compromise-seeking position, and it places itself in direct opposition to the current position of Church leadership. Further, the statement “[w]e sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer,” in context of the absolute positions noted (“must,” “committed,” “need”), is not an offer to accept guidance. It’s an invitation to the Church leadership to get their thinking in line with OW. It’s an open challenge.

    In effect, they’re saying, “We are in the right, and Church leaders are wrong. Take this matter to the Lord in prayer and get yourself straight.” It is difficult to believe that the language used was accidental or casual. It was intentional. It appears that this has not gone unnoticed in SLC.

    Both sides now seem to be saying this, and this is unfortunate. If we’re willing to excuse the one side for that approach, we shouldn’t be too harsh on the other for taking the same approach, simply because we disagree with their conclusions, tactics, or attitude. We simply mourn.

    I think this denouement was manufactured intentionally, or was at the least not unwelcome. I am not implying any ill intent by so saying – I think the motives are all good, which only adds to the tragedy. It may be that the intent is to force awareness, an awakening, a mini-martyrdom, a Birmingham Jail watershed moment. It may even accomplish that end; it remains to be seen. The Lord works in mysterious ways through imperfect, and often stubborn and wilful, humans. He wins in the end, and we either go with him or attempt to break ourselves against him.

  18. Ziff, this article made me so sad, all over again. There is so much hurt coming through from your words here. Sending you internet hugs. This attitude in particular: “Asking is apostasy. The new rule is that your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him, so shut up!” That makes me so nervous for my friends and family in the church. How can we not see that requiring blind obedience is simply unrighteous dominion? Where is the leadership’s faith in their members? In HF and HM? In their gospel?

    And re: FrancisE (in addition to what Britt said), Elisothel commented on fMh with exactly why it was appropriate for Kate and John to be public about these events (I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her here!):

    “Social movements work by exposing the ugly underbelly of the society they are trying to change. Silencing people was a tactic that has worked for the church in the past – silencing history, silencing gays and women, silencing intellectuals, etc. silencing only benefits power. Transparent truth is a path to healing, and I think both Kate and John have been advocates of transparency. They have been public about their feelings, their movements, etc. they are not extremists, they have loved the church enough to help it instead of hurt it but are seen as a threat.”

  19. Nailed it, especially, for me, in your last point. That’s where my anguish comes from and while I’ve heard it put several different ways, “the church isn’t a safe place” best describes my feelings. I barely know Alan, although I’ve enjoyed his blog. I don’t know Kate Kelly at all. I do feel that I know John because of the time I spent interviewing him. I haven’t always agreed with him but parts of his work has blessed my life immensely. Still I’ve never met him f2f.

    So I find it very curious how personally I’ve taken this situation.
    How deeply saddened and even hurt I feel. Afraid, even. Not because I think I’ll be chastised but of my own future as a Mormon. Even for my marriage, which is in the tender and lovely beginnings of renewal after all the strife of the last 8 years. My husband has always been nervous about my searching and questioning nature and this makes him nervous.

    I’ve had moments of tears and almost despair that I haven’t understood myself. “The church doesn’t feel safe” says a lot.

  20. Grey Ghost, you make good points, but you missed the feelings of “little people ” like me and Kristine, for whom the meaning if the church’s handling of the circumstances also hold consequence.

    I don’t even understand it myself! But I feel that Alan and Kate and John are proxies for the rest of us. In that I include the many of us who, while we sympathize with some of what they represent, are ambivalent, or still pondering. I do not believe the goal is to rid the church of elements who detract from the building up of the kingdom but to send a message to the rest of us that we are not acceptable oe welcome unless we shut up and conform totally. And enjoy doing it.

  21. This captures really well the frustration and sadness and anger I’m feeling. The most disturbing thing about this to me is the line in the letter from Kate Kelly’s bishop that says, essentially, you can continue to have your doubts and questions, you just can’t talk about them publicly. Is that church doctrine/policy, or the words of a single bishop? If it is church policy, I think the membership deserves some clarification on that, since that could dramatically impact how (or if?) people like me with questions and concerns engage with the church going forward.


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