Latter-day Jane

A happy diversion of life, love and sisterly advice for Jane Austen fans everywhere. [There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart. -Jane Austen]


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Ordain Women: A Great Divorce

{My final thoughts on Ordain Women, for my LDS brothers and sisters.}


Bright, beautiful flowers, a vibrant green shade tree, and well-groomed shrubbery, all nestled into a carpet of chocolate-colored mulch: this is what I see from the front window of my home — a living painting, composed of nature’s expert brush strokes. It’s one of the things I love best about where I live. It’s not like the farm-girl version of Jane Austen’s Pemberley, where I spent my childhood, but it’s beautiful all the same. When I sit on my porch and look at the green branches swaying gently in front of me and the flowers reaching sunward, I feel at peace in my little corner of the world.

This peace has been threatened.

There’s a vine growing up through the soil and amongst the foliage. I first took notice last spring when it seemed only to populate a decorative outcropping of rocks, nearly covering the formation. It was pretty in its own way, occasionally producing a small white flower between its twisting ropes. But as spring turned into summer, the vine suddenly appeared everywhere, advancing on the flowers, the bushes, the cone-shaped topiary, even the trees. I saw it traveling up stems, through the middle of plants, and around trunks and branches. Discouraged by the onslaught, I pulled away the most insidious growth, stuffing the winding green ropes into garbage bags. They left an unpleasant smell on my hands, along with a light stain that required scrubbing. For awhile, it seemed the vine had been tamed, but every couple of weeks, it would announce its presence again. Underneath it all, a hardy root system remained.

This year, as the first signs of spring were made manifest, a hundred little vine shoots popped out of the soil, ready to begin their quest for domination anew. I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring them, but as I know from experience, they must be addressed before they take over the entire landscape.

“I’m afraid we’re going to come back home one day and find we no longer have a home,” my husband laughed. “One day, the vine is going to wrap itself around the house and pull it straight into the ground.” I chuckled as he described the potential takeover, but for good measure, I started to pull at some of the twisted mess — just in case.

When Ordain Women (OW) first launched a little more than a year ago, I was quietly curious. I didn’t feel that it threatened the landscape. It added another shade of green to the picture and seemed content to grow on the proverbial outcropping of rocks until invited further. This is simply about asking questions, it seemed to assure those looking out at the scenery. It’s a request for prayerful consideration of something essential to our survival.

But somehow, without invitation, those original rocks have been all but abandoned, as the vine has spread, wrapping around every stem and branch within reach.

Although I thought it relatively harmless at the onset, Ordain Women has evolved into something far more detrimental to the landscape I love.

From the literature they make freely available:

  • “Ordain Women believes women must be ordained…” (OW Mission Statement)
  • “We are committed to work for…the ordination of Mormon women…” (OW Mission Statement)
  • “…we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need…” (OW Mission Statement)
  • “Ordain Women is committed to creating a public space to advocate…” (OW FAQ)
  • “We welcome all who support our initiatives and public actions…” (OW FAQ)
  • “We call for the ordination of women and their full integration into the governance…” (OW FAQ)
  • “…The Church’s Proclamation on the Family…preserve[s] an antiquated and unequal model…” (OW FAQ)
  • “We refuse to tolerate inequity…” (OW FAQ)
  • “…priesthood must be re-envisioned as a power that transcends gender…” (OW FAQ)

In several sections, I find the following tucked away, almost as an afterthought: “We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.”

I see claims and demands: we believe, [you] must, we intend, we assert, we call for, we refuse. I see colorfully-designed marketing materials, discussions, and guidelines. I see notices for public forums, web discussions, protests, and vigils, along with suggestions about where and how these might be best carried out in the public eye. I see the promotion of new followers’ testimonials. I see videos, press releases, and an endless array of statements and counter-statements. I see the clamoring for media attention and interviews.

What I don’t see is “just asking questions” in the spirit of sincerity and respect.

On June 28, 2014, The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a statement, addressing the priesthood, members’ desires to ask questions about church practice and doctrine, and apostasy. In part, it reads:

“Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”

The questions are not the problem.

The asking of the questions is not the problem.

The possible answers to those questions are not the problem.

The problem is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders.

I don’t have an answer to the question about priesthood ordination for women, nor do I personally feel compelled to seek one. I don’t know if it will be extended to women soon, or years from now, or after this life, or at all. I do, however, firmly believe that, “…the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women…” as stated by The First Presidency. I also trust that my Father in Heaven has a plan in all things. Further, I trust in and sustain our living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, who is the designated steward to watch over and guide Heavenly Father’s children here on earth.

Whatever the original intent its founders might have had, Ordain Women, as a movement, has taken on a life of its own. It has become as invasive, persistent and determined as the vine in the landscaping around my home.

Though their actions and beliefs may be different than mine, I hold no contempt for those who are choosing to take part in the movement. I still firmly believe that they are our sisters and brothers.

I do, however, grieve. I grieve for the course that has been chosen. For those who are suffering. For those whose minds burn with questions. For those whose hearts ache with confusion.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis wrote,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.”

It is my intent to be the first kind of person.

Which will you be?

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Kate Kelly is our sister

{Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, has been excommunicated. It’s weighing heavily on the minds of many, mine included. Although a departure from my usual subject matter, I’d like to share my thoughts about Kate with my LDS sisters everywhere.}


We were a hodgepodge group of freshmen inhabiting one of BYU’s yet-to-be-renovated relics of a dormitory, and Kate Kelly was one of the cool kids. As a collection of fabrics, our material wasn’t fit for a designer’s palette. But somehow, the combination of bright and subdued hues, sparkly slivers, textured bits, and remnants that made up our little floor in Stover Hall sewed themselves together to form a fantastic state-fair-worthy crazy quilt.

Kate Kelly was one of the sparkly slivers. She was an unusually bright mix of gumption, guts, school spirit and witty sarcasm, wrapped in a package of common-sense-meets-whimsy. We weren’t close friends. (I happily remained on the periphery of coolness, content to watch and wonder.) But as a whole, we were a close-knit group of young adult women, and I remember Kate as both vibrant and kind.

Hiking the Y as Freshmen

(Photo taken in 1999, while hiking Y mountain in Provo, Utah.)

As of June 23, Kate confirmed via the media that she had been excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where we have both been lifelong members. (Full text here.) It comes a little more than a year after she founded a group called Ordain Women, in which she publicly lobbied church leadership to extend priesthood ordination to women. As months went on, her ideas took root, and her statements, web presence, meetings and protests created something of a media frenzy. During this time, she recruited and gained hundreds of followers. I am not among them.

Although I do not agree with the course that was ultimately chosen by the Ordain Women movement, my heart goes out to Kate. There is a palpable sense of devastation running through parts of the LDS community. There are also those who seem to be rejoicing at the decision handed down, filling up the comments sections of news stories, blogs and social media posts with combative vitriol that is anything but virtuous, lovely or of good report. I am not among them, either.

Dozens of essays and editorials have been published in the lead-up to and aftermath of this event. Regardless of the side you might be on, someone’s excommunication is a devastating thing, deserving of compassion and kindness.

Coinciding with these recent events, Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president for the church, released a statement:

“All of  us as sisters in the gospel have the responsibility and privilege to support and nourish one another. We have all committed to be disciples of Jesus Christ and this discipleship should be at the heart of all that we do. Each of us is in a different place in our spiritual journey. Some may struggle with testimony. Some have questions or wrestle with the pressures and trials of life. Those who are struggling for whatever reason should be able to find within our sisterhood a spirit of warmth, inclusion, and love.

“Occasionally, some of our brothers and sisters may find themselves away from the fold because of personal choices. Without condoning those choices, it is important to remember the Savior’s message of leaving the ninety and nine safely in the fold and reaching out with love, with kindness and with compassion to the one. We can demonstrate that compassion by ensuring that our communications with one another are respectful and kind.”

Warmth.

Inclusion.

Love.

Compassion, without condoning.

It has been years since I’ve seen Kate, but if she showed up in my ward on Sunday, I’d give her a hug and invite her to sit with my family. I hope you would do the same. Although excommunication means many things, it does not mean that Kate isn’t welcome at church. She is welcome. Nor does it mean that she cannot one day regain full activity in the church. She can.

Kate (L) and Sarah (R), a.k.a. Latter-day Jane

Kate Kelly is my sister. She is our sister.

I am thankful that our paths crossed earlier in life, and I hope that someday, they’ll cross again.

With sisterly affection,

Sarah, aka Latter-day Jane


My new post, Ordain Women: A Great Divorce, is now available: https://latterdayjane.com/2014/06/30/ordain-women-a-great-divorce/

The letter received by Kate Kelly on June 23, 2014, as provided to Deseret News by Ordain Women: http://www.deseretnews.com/media/pdf/1365030.pdf

Blog entry by Holly on the Hill: http://hollyonthehill.com/to-my-sisters/

Bonnie L. Oscarson’s video message:  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/video-message-sister-oscarson-encourages-mormon-women-reach-out