There’s a lot being said about John Dehlin and Kate Kelly in Mormon circles these days. You know who these two are: John is the runner of the Mormon Stories podcast and Kate Kelly is the founder of the Ordain Women movement.
People have opinions on what John and Kate are doing. I will say that both of these people have done me a service: they, and the people associated with them, have helped me gain greater empathy, maybe even some charity, for my brothers and sisters. I’m a straight guy in the LDS church. Sure, I’m a convert, but I cut my long hair a while ago. But my experience in the LDS church and Mormon culture has been pretty straightforward, and having that experience disrupted by these folks has been of personal and spiritual value.
I think that is the case for many.
Do I agree with every thing that these two do in their movements? Nope. Do I agree with all of their methods? Nope. That’s not the issue here.
The issue here is that things have come to a head for John and Kate. They’ve both received letters inviting them to join in a council wherein their membership in the church will be discussed. Following that, Kate has in fact been excommunicated and she now intends to appeal that action.
I’m not going to talk about how disciplinary councils function in the LDS church and I’m not going to defend either the church or Kelly and Dehlin. I don’t have the entire story—in fact, I think it’s safe to say that very few people have the entire story.
What needs addressing is how the members of the church are reacting. Particularly my friends on Facebook and other social networks. You might have seen (or said) something similar to what I’ve been seeing. I quote:
“If they don’t like the church, fine. Good riddance.”
“They obviously don’t have a testimony, so why are they even here?”
“They need to find a different church that they actually believe in.”
“I’m glad they’re getting excommunicated.”
I brought this up in my Elders Quorum two weeks ago (disclosure: I’ve just been called to be the EQ pres—for the 2nd time) during a lesson. The teacher had prepared a lesson, I believe through great inspiration, on charity. I knew that Peter, our teacher, had been motivated by what’s been happening with Dehlin and Kelly, and many in the group were kind of talking around the issue. I took a moment to see if the Spirit approved and, feeling no reason not to, I decided it was time to say what has been on my mind about this.
Here’s what I said:
“You’ve heard about what’s going on with John Dehlin and Kate Kelly. Approve or disapprove of their questions and/or methods, there is a lot of stuff being said about their membership. Many are saying the church is better off without them. Many are saying they’re happy these two might be facing excommunication. Many are saying good riddance.”
I took a moment and caught some eyes, wanting to make sure I had their attention. This was important.
I waited a beat.
“No, no, no. That’s not the spirit of Christ. That’s not the spirit of peace and love. The table of Christ always—always—has a place for them, should they choose to be there. It’s not now, nor will it ever be, our place to judge these two people. That’s Christ’s place and we will trust Him to do that in His own time and place.”
“Our place is to love. Always love. Whether we disagree, agree, are uncomfortable, have our own doubts, or whatever. We must love. That’s our duty. Because Christ said it was one of the greatest commandments, love is our default mode.”
Some silence greeted this. Then a brother said, simply, “Amen.”
We don’t have the whole story. Even if we know these two personally, we don’t really have the whole story. Who knows where lies and truth end and begin here? Not me. I have my suspicions, but I choose to behave like a mature adult and stand ready to get more information as it becomes available.
What I know and will repeat always is the certainty that contention and treating people as if the kingdom of God were some kind of exclusive club, or a popular clique, is not the way of Christ. We don’t tell people His kingdom has no place for them. We open our arms to all.
Or at least we should.
Our default mode, like His, should always be love.