A woman who has consistently defied church elders, doctrine and repeated orders to stop pushing her agenda has just been excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The decision by the Mormon church to excommunicate the founder of a prominent women’s group marks a stern statement at a time when the church is under pressure to recognize gay rights and allow women into the priesthood.
Experts believe the move essentially draws a line in the sand to show church members how far they can go in publicly questioning church practices.
The ousting of Kate Kelly is rare and brings down the harshest punishment available on a church member who created an organization and staged demonstrations in a push to permit women to join the faith’s lay clergy.
“It does more than excommunicate Kelly,” said Jan Shipps, a retired religion professor from Indiana who is a non-Mormon expert on the church. “It warns everybody.”
Shipps said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is implementing “boundary maintenance,” using Kelly as an example to show people how far they can go in questioning church practices.
The message seems to be that “organizing pressure groups, and trying to cultivate a following for such groups, crosses a line that will trigger disciplinary action,” said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.
I’m not a Mormon, and obviously not an LDS leader, but if I were the decision wouldn’t have been a tough one. Give her a pass and more will be encouraged until finally one gets her foot in the door, then it’s bye-bye Mormon Church, just like the Episcopal Church. Sometimes, you just have to draw the line, and anyway, since she doesn’t seem to have much faith in other Mormon decisions and doctrine, I doubt she even puts any stock in an excommunication. Just think of it as an eviction notice so as to keep her from disrupting other Mormons.
But what always gets me about these attempts to push this or that church to “reform” is the fact that anybody – women included – can start his or her own church in the US. Ms. Kelly could start her own Mormon offshoot called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Goddesses” or something like that. For some reason, however, churches started by women don’t have a very good track record in the US (not to mention the world). To me, this says that the churches should hold firm and ban females from the priesthood if they want to survive, although I’m sure that feminists think it’s the patriarchy or some other Lord of Darkness holding them down. The only female church I can think of that had any success over the years was the Shakers, and that’s only because they managed to use 19th century child custody laws to gain adherents, but today they’re down to about four members.
Still, that shouldn’t stop Ms. Kelly from giving it a try. Maybe she’ll be the first one to make it work.