Excommunication is considered the highest punishment that the Church can impose on its members. It consists Of “… Cutting the person Off from the Church, so that he is no longer a member. Every blessing of the gospel is thereby lost, and unless the person repents and gains his church status again, he cannot be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. ” (Mnemonic, 1979). Cause for excommunication includes apostasy, rebellion, cruelty to wives and children (just a hint of sexism), immorality, and “all crimes involving moral turpitude”. Mnemonic, 1979). The Mormon faith is known for several things- kindness, community, family, service, charity, sobriety, etc. But a closer look also shows blatant sexism, a history of racism, intolerance, antiquated world- views, corporate greed and an alarming amount of cognitive dissonance, avoidance issues and lasting psychological damage to its members. It is not uncommon for a closely tied family to be torn apart due to a member of the family being homosexual, or for leaving the church.
For an organization that preaches that the family is one of the most important blessings in this life and core foundational structure, it’s astonishing how easily they shun individuals who fail to meet their status quo. One might assume that because Kate Kelly is neither homosexual nor a drug and alcohol user that she would be safe to go about her business in and outside the church. She is a full tithe payer (all members are required to give of their net income to the church).
She is active and abides by rules placed by The Prophet (the head of the entire church) and official church doctrine. And yet, she faces excommunication from her beloved religion. In 2013, Kate Kelly founded the Ordain Women movement, which has since inspired countless women to question their roles in the church and even in their families. The goal of the organization has been to redefine church policy on its patriarchal leadership. Only men are allowed to hold The Priesthood, and the Priesthood has the official authority to make any and all decisions in the church and in the home.
In April of 2014, Kelly marched with a group of hundreds of women and men onto Temple Square in Salt Lake City during General Conference weekend. The march was intended to demonstrate their want to gain access into a meeting held inside the conference center, which was for men only. (NBC News, June). Given the visibility of Ms. Kelly s cause, both online and within the church itself, church leaders feel threatened and fear that this momentum might cause other members to doubt their faith and their roles.
In order to prevent an intellectual awakening among its members, church officials aim to silence anyone who biblically questions church policy. This was made evident over a decade ago when six prominent and public critical thinkers were excommunicated as a collective for simply asking questions and expressing doubt. It is easy to connect those six individuals to what is happening now, as Kate Kelly and two other Mormon intellectuals face excommunication for their radical and disobedient behavior.
Aside from the upsetting news of the impending excommunication itself, Ms. Kelly was informed via a letter from her previous local church leader, that the disciplinary council would be held in her home state of Virginia. She moved to Utah from Virginia, so this ‘Court of Love’, as members like to call it, will be held in absentia, meaning she will tot be in attendance for her own trial. Additionally, the council is comprised of four men, and no others are invited or permitted to enter, save the accused.
This is yet another example of the lack of gender equality present in the church. After voicing her concerns and questions regarding feminism and its rightful place in the Mormon religion, Kate Kelly faces excommunication by a trial held by men and men alone. It’s similar to a court case wherein a man commits murder, and the jury is comprised of the deceased man’s family members. Is this just? Is it ethical? Some would argue that Kate Kelly has forfeited her me berries of the church already through her disobedience and scrutiny of church policy and doctrine.