The Church issued the following statement today in response to questions from the news media regarding Church discipline:
“The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.
“Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church.”
This statement is not unexpected. It also reads like something of a “canned” message, which is also not unexpected. The Church has long ago established that disciplinary hearings are not public information. The difficulty with this situation is that it’s being played out in the public news and the only side that will be heard is that of the accused individuals. The sides of the situation are also fairly well established already, the liberal groups supporting the individuals in question and the conservatives supporting the Church proper. Moderates will be torn, I suppose.
Ms. Kelly has a couple informative posts up on the Ordain Women website if you want to look at them. Again, the problem here is that this is her side only. Her Bishop will almost certainly not comment on the matter, nor will anyone else. In this situation, I stand by my comments last night that her hearing is the result of the organized actions in Salt Lake City during General Conference. Without those, I suspect she would not be here.
There seems to be less information out there from Mr. Dehlin. At least a couple of websites in the ex-Mormon community indicate that he has gone through periods of inactivity in the past. Here and here. This seems to be something that is not new to him. In the New Order Mormon forum, Mr. Dehlin posted that he no longer believes (or believed at the time) in the Restoration of the Church, Priesthood, and so forth. To say that belief in that is fundamental to the church would be an understatement. It’s equivalent to one of my United Methodist friends not believing in the teachings of Wesley. I guess I find it difficult to self-identify as a Mormon while lacking belief in such a fundamental church teaching. If that belief, or lack of belief, is still the case, it should come as no surprise that this is happening to him.
In this same sense, I would say that I suspect supporters of these organizations, along with supporters of organizations like Affirmation, will be fine. I actually just “liked” the Affirmation New York City page on Facebook today. At the core of all of this, regardless of female leadership or the Church’s acceptance of the LBGT community in a membership context, WE, as members, must be willing to accept them into our congregations.
To me, the outcome of the situations with Ms. Kelly and Mr. Dehlin is not really in question. Truth is, believing something that is different from orthodox Church teachings and even writing about it is different from actively recruiting people to stage a demonstration on Temple Square or freely admitting that you no longer believe in the Restoration. I think we all need to remember the difference during this time.