Friday, June 27, 2014

Did Kate Kelly Ever Encounter The Real Joseph Smith And The Real Mormonism?

Did Kate Kelly Ever Encounter The Real Joseph Smith And The Real Mormonism?© 

The world of Mormonism has been thrown into a turmoil by the minor squall fomented by Kate Kelly and her “Ordain Women” organization which resulted in her excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday 22 June 2014 in Virginia. Despite her protests of belief and faithfulness (to be discussed in more detail below), she has two outstanding problems–she does not know, understand and believe some basic church doctrines about how the Church is governed, nor the history of the Church relative to these same issues. She has never encountered the real Joseph Smith and the principles he taught about apostasy.  She missed Apostasy 101.

On 21 June 2014, Mrs. Kelly reproduced on the “Ordain Women” website a letter she wrote to her Virginia bishopric which she labeled, “My defense against the charge of ‘apostasy’.” This defense begins with a request: 
I beg of you not to impose any form of discipline during the trial you will hold on Sunday. I also request that you do the right thing and revoke the “informal probation” that was placed upon me and remove the “move restriction” placed on my records so that I can participate in the ward where I currently reside. Please reconsider this punitive process and allow me to continue to worship in peace.(1)
Though she did not attend the disciplinary council or agree to do so through modern technology or arrange for another date, she asks not to be disciplined and for the brethren to “do the right thing” and revoke previous restrictions placed on her, as though she were the sole arbiter of what “the right things” are, and implying that her leaders are misdirected. The “peace” of her worship is at issue; apparently the peaceful worship of the church, especially the women among whom she is agitating, (not to mention the men of the general priesthood meeting she sought access to) be damned.

Her long letter asserts that her leaders do not really know her or her heart and that they failed to follow-up on her “repeated invitation to engage in an open dialogue in person.” She refers to but does not cite four emails. This is puzzling and seems contradictory to the letter from her bishop informing her of her excommunication in which he refers to four separate meetings she had with him and/or the stake president.(2)

She went on to say that she has always had a believing but questioning heart, and that she cannot stop asking hard questions. She complained that when she was baptized the only thing to wear was a white jumpsuit for an adult man.  
I was very upset that no one [apparently including her own parents] had thought that a little girl might be getting baptized and prepared something for her to wear. As I look back I realize that is just a small reflection in my memory of the way in which adult men are treated as the standard mold in the church and everyone else is an ‘other.’
This super-sensitivity is typical of critics who get something in their craw and then everything is seen in this light. She does not hold her parents responsible for her dress, it is the male dominated Church that is trying to force her into a male mold. She does not consider how big the ward was at the time and how much baptismal clothing they had available, or any issue of modesty. She had her own idea of what she expected to happen and when it didn’t she somehow became a victim demeaned by the organization. It is all about her, as it is for many critics.

Again, as is typical with apostates, she feels her personal morality, her perception of truth and integrity are greater than the Church’s commitment to righteousness, truth, and integrity.  Her personal morality trumps that of God’s Church. From her recital of lessons she loved about brave pioneers putting faith into action and walking in difficult paths to support the truth, the Young Women values of good works and integrity that to her require one to “act on the thoughts and feelings you have in order to live with true integrity,” (the same argument gay and lesbian Mormons use in violating the law of chastity), we learn that she somehow sees her “Ordain Women” quest as an act of pioneer heroism, integrity and authenticity. When she launched the website she exclaimed, “that was the most joyful worship I had felt since my mission. My whole authentic(3) self was out there for all to see, and I was unashamed.”

Thus the following paragraph from her letter is equally telling and suggests why the outcome was what it was:
I want to communicate with perfect candor, as I have always done. As I made clear to President Wheatley when we met on May 5th, I will continue to lead Ordain Women, the group I founded. I will not take down the website I will not stop speaking out publicly on the issue of gender inequality in the church. These things President Wheatley instructed me to do, I cannot do in good conscience. I cannot repent of telling the truth, speaking what is in my heart and asking questions that burn in my soul.
She received a legitimate call to repent from God’s authorized servants and by her own admission she rejected it. All apparently because of self-righteousness and pride and being "authentic".  Her defense, as I read it, is: "Look, I grew up loving the gospel, active in it, even owning and wearing BYU paraphernalia, serving a mission and marrying in the temple. That should show you [her judges] that my sincerely asking hard questions, starting a website campaigning for changes in Church practices, using six proselyting discussions in recruiting others, are not reasons to question my faith, loyalty, and commitment to the gospel." 

Encountering the real Joseph Smith and the real Mormonism

Mrs. Kelly’s problems are many, but two stand out. She does not understand some fundamental doctrines and she has not learned how they have been implemented and played out in the history of the Church.  As good of a woman as she may be, she is ignorant of some very fundamental things and that ignorance has led her into grave consequences.

First, she does not understand the “first step” into apostasy. Joseph Smith taught it as an eternal and undeviating principle “firm as the pillars of heaven.” In other words, this is not some possibility, or some likelihood, or some issue for others to worry about; in actuality it is a key to one of the mysteries of the Kingdom.  In 1839 he said:
I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.(4)
Perhaps Mrs. Kelly in her attorney-like way may want to parse this and say, “Well, he is talking about men here, not women.” I do not think she is that shallow, but just in case, I would remind her that it was she who said “adult men are treated as the standard mold in the church and everyone else is an ‘other.’” So, it should not escape her that the same principle applies to women. She is exhibit A of its truthfulness for the present generation.

The Lord gave the following warning to the Saints in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, when he spoke about conditions and beliefs in our day. Verse 16 reads:
16) They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.(5) 
A correlation to these principles comes from President George Q. Cannon, apparently another teaching unknown to Mrs. Kelly.This statement was made in reference to The Godbeite apostasy in 1868-69.
A friend . . . wished to know whether we had said that we considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities of the church was apostasy, as he said, we had been credited with having made a statement to this effect. We replied that we had not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities constituted apostasy; for we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate; for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern his church.(6) 
Second, Mrs. Kelly appears to be unaware of other very important teachings of Joseph Smith.  In an op-ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune of 13 June 2014, Ashley I. Woolley, an LDS graduate of Harvard Divinity School, took issue with Kelly on three grounds, though as she said because of her background, “I might be expected to align with those who believe the LDS Church should ordain women.” Her third point was that neither she (Woolley) nor Kelly had the calling, nor the authority, nor the perspective “to resolve complicated doctrinal issues for the church. Intellectual discussion and questioning of doctrine is the privilege of all members. But to claim that my own interpretation is right for the whole church is beyond the scope of my authority. That is, I believe, what prophets are for.”(7) According to Joseph Smith she was absolutely correct.  He said:
I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom. Respecting an apostate, or one who has been cut off from the Church, and who wishes to come in again, the law of our Church expressly says that such shall repent, and be baptized, and be admitted as at the first.(8)
I am not aware that Kate Kelly has explicitly claimed revelation or guidance for the Church. However, her practical actions of starting an organization and a website, with discussions for recruiting, campaigning for her position, and leading a group of women in that campaign are de facto evidence that she believes she knows better than the leaders of the Church on this issue. She is not, in fact, seeking a dialogue with Church leaders about her questions.  She believes the Church practice is in error and she seeks a change in church government in harmony with her personal belief.  Her campaign is not for dialogue, but for change.  She deceives herself and anyone else who does not see through this rhetoric.

Mrs. Kelly, who either did not know these doctrines and principles or ignored them, adds the further problem of not knowing or ignoring the history of the Church.  Many have tried to steady the ark; some but not all have been disciplined.  But one can force the issue too far.  Mrs. Kelly is either naive or ignorant, or both if she thought she could persist in her ever escalating campaign without some response from her church leaders. To say now that she is surprised by her treatment is disingenuous given the fact that she knew as early as March of 2013 that there was an issue which concerned her for the rest of that year and which was brought to a head in four meetings with her Stake President in the winter and spring of 2013-14, following her actions at the Fall General Conference. If Kate Kelly would have studied Joseph Smith and church history, she would not have been surprised by the judgment brought upon her. She would have seen it coming and even predicted the outcome.  Unfortunately in her case, as Jesus frequently pointed out, those who will not see and hear, do not understand.

An important question is what will the future hold for Mrs. Kelly? It will be interesting to see if the teachings of George Q. Cannon and Joseph Smith hold true for her. Cannon warned that one who differed with the brethren“had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern his church.” Joseph Smith once had a discussion with Isaac Behunnin about apostates. Behunnin observed that if he left the Church he would “go to some remote place where Mormonism had never been heard of, and no one would ever learn that I knew anything about it." Joseph Smith taught his friend the same principle Cannon urged upon the Saints generally–caution about becoming an apostate. He told Behunnin that he [Behunnin] didn’t really know what he would do if he left Mormonism. When he joined the church he “left neutral ground” forever–he couldn’t get back on it. Therefore, if he were to leave the Church it was at the instigation of Satan “and you will follow his dictation and be his servant.”(9)

I do not desire to wish a plague upon Mrs. Kelly’s house, but I know enough about these principles and how they have been demonstrated ad infinitum in church history to be concerned about what lies ahead for her.  I won’t be surprised if her campaign turns ever more virulent.  It is common among apostates to leave the Church but not leave it alone. I can only pray that the “spirit of repentance” will come upon her and replace the spirit of self-justification and self-righteousness which is with her now.

I am sad that Kate Kelly apparently never encountered the real Prophet Joseph Smith and his teachings. She has nobody to blame for that but herself, but had she done so the outcome for her could have been different.

Lets think together again, soon.


1. Kate Kelly to Mark Harrison, et al., 21 June 2014.  Available online at:
Accessed 27 June 2014.  All other quotations from Mrs. Kelly in this article are from the same source.

2. Available online at:

3. Doing something with authenticity or being one’s “authentic self” is a popular buzz word or phrase these days. I believe Mrs. Kelly confuses it with true integrity which is more robust, more direct, and less abstract than “authenticity.”  Integrity implies thinking, belief and conduct based on genuine and true high moral and upright principles; whereas authenticity is more malleable, more in line with individualism, pushing the envelop, and rebellion–all based on one’s personal standards and beliefs regardless of how incorrect or low they may be.  “If I am true to my personal beliefs and standards, I am authentic.”  What more could one want?

4. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), pp. 156-157, emphasis added.  Hereafter cited as TPJS.

5. Emphasis added.  Verse 14 is also relevant.  It says, “...the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.” 

Establishing the Lord’s righteousness is also at issue in Isa. 54:13-14; Jas. 1:20; and Rom. 1:16-17.  Doing religious things one’s own way was an issue in Old Testament times.  See for example, Jer. 7:24, 9:14, 10:23, 11:8, 13:10, and Ezek. 36:17-19, 32.  Of course idolatry takes many forms beyond idol worship.  One of the most subtle in our day is willfulness in religious matters.  See Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, 6 (June 1976): 3-6, where he also cites D&C 1:16.

6. George Q. Cannon, Editorial, Deseret News, 3 November 1869, p. 457, cited in B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 6 vols, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 5: 265-66, n. 23, and in Walter E. Bowen, Teachings of the Living Prophets, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, n. d.), p. 205, emphasis added.  Many like statements may be found in the latter publication on pp. 196-208.

7. Ashley Isaacson Woolley, “Op-ed: Changing the church: How Ordain Women gets it wrong,” Salt Lake Tribune, 13 June 2014, available online at:
Accessed 27 June 2014.

8. TPJS, p. 21.

9. Daniel Tyler, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, 27 (15 August 1892): 491-92.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for pointing us to correct principles in this matter. We live in a world that is always swirling about with ideas that push change and progress. Sometimes I wonder why. I am concerned about our loss of what dialogue and debate should be: listening to understand the viewpoints of others before expressing our own. Instead, we work in an arena that is completely defensive--an "I'm right and you're wrong" mentality (and I won’t settle down until you hear me!). Further, in this case, it has become an "I'm right and the Brethren need to bend to MY viewpoint" situation. To me, this is the essence of apostasy.

    Are we supposed to inquire? Yes! Are we supposed to think and ponder about what we believe? Yes! But, we must (as President Cannon mentions in his quote above) be very careful when we turn our inquiries into disagreements with those that hold the Lord's keys of the Kingdom.

    Thankfully, we have a system for our divine inquiry that allows us to keep ourselves in check. It is not the Brethren alone that we follow. First, what do the Brethren say about your inquiry? Second, what do the Standard Works say about it? Third, what does the Holy Ghost say about it? This triad acts as an equalizer in our spiritual lives. If we feel miffed in our support of the Brethren or with any of their teachings, it should lead us to consider our current relationship with the Holy Ghost and the Lord’s scriptures. Do we have the Spirit with us? If we are questioning or feeling the need to constantly institute change in the Lord’s Church, I submit that we need to look inward and repent. Further, if we lack the Spirit in our lives, it is the living Prophets that we can look to for safety if we simply do what prophets through all ages have exhorted us to do: Hearken! In turn, it is hearkening to the Brethren (the voice of the Lord) that brings the Spirit more vibrantly into our lives. John 7:17 comes to mind. I also love Jacob who taught, “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from His hand” (Jacob 4:10).

    President Uchtdorf recently taught:
    “It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.”7

    There are three keywords in this statement: honesty, truth, and faith. The motives of honest seekers of truth do not necessarily coincide with those of driven purveyors of change. The Church is not a social experiment that blows with the wind of what the times and the people demand! Rather, it is what the Lord says it is: His Kingdom! It is He who does not lie, is unchangeable, and whose course is one eternal round that is at the helm. What do we know? And, I do not doubt for a second that the Brethren are not praying about the issues and concerns of the earth; this is what they do! Therefore, why would one feel the need to demand the prayers of our prophets? We should be praying for our prophets as well!

    For me, there are many lessons about our covenants and commitment to the gospel built in to the Kate Kelly discussion. There are many questions, thoughts, and sophistries that can create dissonance and wonder in our souls. Perhaps, what drives this desire for change in the Church is fear—fear of how these questions make one feel. The fact of the matter is if we are anchored to our covenants and our love of Jesus Christ that fear is warmly replaced with faith in that which we know: that the Lord loves us and we can trust Him!