My thoughts on the two potential excommunications
I have said thousands of things that the church might not like. For example, I believe that someday gays would be able to marry in the temple; I believe that physical gender is not as important as the gender one feels, and that it is the physical body that is wrong; women should at least have the option to hold the priesthood (after all, women are better fit to be leaders in many ways). I do not really publicly affirm this, though I am aware that I did just now, but this is also not my real name. Part of my hesitation of affirming these things publicly is that I may someday be excommunicated. People would look at me differently, as some outcast…that is not to say I had never felt like an outcast in the church. In fact, I have.
When I was in high school, I loved seminary. I believed in what it taught and what it stood for; it attempted to teach young Mormons about the love of Christ and of Heavenly Father, and that we were all children of God and thus divine, and therefore we should all treat each other as if we were all divine (because, in fact, we were). This is what I had always believed the church stood for, and, in truth, this is the church that I follow. I do not follow the church that cares more about policy than its individual members, and it seems that the church that I had come to love so much because of its messages on love is becoming more and more like a totalitarian government (you do and say what I tell you to do or say, or you’re out of here!).
It wasn’t until last year that I first learned about the September Six (I learned about it from an ex-Mormon). I was a toddler when it happened, when the church excommunicated six intellectuals in a single month. But this ex-Mormon believed that now, the way the church was going, it would not do anything like the September Six again. Mind you, threatening to excommunicate John Dehlin and Kate Kelly is nothing compared to excommunicating (or putting on probation) six individuals. (However, who knows? The month has just begun, so we might see more threats later…) I was a bit surprised when I heard about the threats today. Some of my friends on Facebook were telling me that it was really no surprise, but I never remembered the September Six. I had to learn about it from an ex-Mormon; it’s as if the church were trying to hide it from future generations. In fact, I would be surprised if somebody my age had already learned about the September Six by the time he/she was a teenager, unless he/she was already questioning.
Anyway, I joined North Star LDS (an organization for members of the LDS church that are LGBTQ but want to remain active) in about 2007. It was through these groups that I first heard the name John Dehlin. So I knew that he was an LGBTQ activist, but beyond that, I knew very little about him. In October of 2013, I learned about a movement that was going on in the church called the Ordain Women movement, and immediately I was looking through their website and reading the members’ stories. I also learned about what they were planning on doing: going to the conference center to see if they could be admitted to the Priesthood session of the conference. I desperately wanted to go, but I was also afraid and ashamed of myself. If the church were reading this, they would wonder why more activists couldn’t be like me. But I am thinking about this and wondering why I can’t be more like these activists. There have been so many things in the church that I have come to disagree with, especially concerning ‘policy’ and even some of its most fundamental teachings.
For example, I think that the sons of perdition (Lucifer and the 1/3 cast out of heaven during the war) are like Snape is in Harry Potter. That is, the sons of perdition had struck a deal with God the Father, agreeing to be hated and despised so that normal people like us will have something to tempt us. I also believe that the kingdoms of glory are only states of mind. Certain people will have more privileges, but it isn’t like those in the terrestrial kingdom will only live with others in that same kingdom. After all, those in the celestial kingdom will also all live apart from each other.*
For a long time, I have felt that I had needed to leave the church for my own wellbeing. I do not feel like I can relate to a lot of what is taught, and if I can’t voice my own opinion (which I haven’t done yet at church because I am afraid of the reaction of my fellow members), then why should I keep going? However, I have listened to numerous episodes on the Mormon Matters podcast and have loved and related to what Jim McLachlan said to a philosophy professor at UVU (from whom I have taken two courses, the same ex-Mormon I talked about above). McLachlan said that he stayed because of thinkers like this professor, and that Mormons with different viewpoints have a responsibility, or perhaps are just suggested, to stay to change views from intolerance to tolerance, from policy-based to individuals-based. And this was one of the main reasons I had decided to stay in the church, though my family is the top reason. Who knows, though; I might end up leaving anyway.
I believe the two potential excommunications are wrong, and that the church is going too far with it. What is wrong with giving Mormons a voice, giving them platforms for discussion and even work a change in the policies of the church? Yes, churches need policies, just as any organization does. Yes, they need order to be kept within its organization. And yes, sometimes you need to fire the people who are creating disorder and chaos. But wait…this sounds more like a company, a government, than a church. Isn’t a church supposed to provide places for people who want to worship to worship? The church I knew in high school is gone, and I want it back!!! But perhaps the church I knew was merely an illusion. Maybe what I perceived as the true nature of the church was flawed. Maybe the church has always been a totalitarian government, trying to control how much discussion a group of members can have, and kicking out those that don’t conform to the ‘rules.’ There should be no limit on how much discussion people can have, except until it gets to the point of doing physical harm to others. But none of these discussions have ever caused physical harm to others. They are merely meant to open the eyes of those that have turned their eyes away to different ways of thinking. Saying that one is no longer a part of the church because he wants others to be tolerant to gays is going too far. Saying that one is no longer a part of the church because she wants women to be able to serve in the same ways men serve is going too far.
I confess: I have also come to disagree with many of the fundamental truth-claims the church makes. Just read some of my post! And truthfully, I’m not sure if I consider myself a Mormon. It seems that the Mormons would say that I am not. But what does it mean to be a Mormon? Is it to believe in God, Christ’s Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the prophets, and loving everybody beyond measure? If it is, then I am a Mormon. However, I am completely open to the idea that the Book of Mormon is not literally true, but has a different type of truth, and I believe that prophets are called of God, but couldn’t anybody be called of God? However, I know that they make mistakes, and that I don’t have to believe in everything they say. But if what it means to be Mormon means voting against gay marriage, making excuses for the ban on the priesthood which was lifted in 1978, ignoring many of the mistakes that the church has made such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or telling others proudly that you are completely against the Ordain Women movement, then I am not a Mormon. I think that pure religion is the comforting of the mourning, the healing of the sick, and basically the service of humanity, because that is what Christ did. I am a Christian, and I believe that Christ’s teachings must be at the core.
And Christ taught us to accept the sinner.
*This is the first time I am speaking of these beliefs. I may add some posts detailing why I believe such strange things.