An Open Letter to Kate Kelly
There is so much I want to say about dialogue surrounding the LDS excommunication of Kate Kelly. I don’t have the proper forum for most of it. Honestly, my blog is not an appropriate place and my thoughts are too driven by feelings to do much good in more academic settings. But this site is the forum I have, so if my usual readers will oblige me in this small detour, I’ve got a few things to say.
I do not value people as symbols, I value people as people. Individuals with personal circumstance, strengths, weaknesses, sins and triumphs. Kate is not a symbol or a type of anything. She is a much beloved woman in a hard place. That doesn’t make her less, it makes her more.
I don’t know the exact events surrounding the lead up to Kate’s council. None of us do. I cannot comment on her heart or her intent. I will say I think the worldview OW has presented is a limited one. That their argument is not my own. That I feel their prescription and demands are not so different in effect from the patriarchal ones they fight against. It is an organization that claims to know better and will gently lead me to their conclusions. The thing is, I am not looking for sisters who think they know better than me to teach me. I am looking for sisters to seek alongside me. I can say, I am…to many…a radical myself. I will also say that, like many within the OW movement and without it, my heart and actions are working for something more than we currently have. I often have to call upon my own stores of patience and understanding. As we all do in different ways and for different reasons.
None of the above has caused me much discomfort. I enjoy discussions with parties that don’t agree with me. It’s the best way to learn new truths. Kate’s excommunication is sorrowful, as all are. But I have faith and love in all parties involved in all sides. I believe the Lord will take care of each of them. Heal them. Give them all additional light. As to my hopes for the “more” of the future, all of us want “more”. More understanding of the Atonement, more peace for our broken minds, more charity in our own hearts. More, more, more. It will come. We have been promised it will. And I will continue to prayerfully seek it even as I wait. That is one of many divine rights accorded to me, accorded to all of us.
No, the thing that breaks my heart, that keeps me up at night is best represented by a statement made by Kelly herself at a candlelight vigil she attended in her honor,
“I’m overwhelmed by the positive support, and I think it really demonstrates that this isn’t just happening to one person,” Kelly said before the vigil started. “This isn’t just happening to me, but it feels like the entire Mormon feminist community is being put on trial.”
Kate, I am a Mormon feminist. And I am not being put on trial right alongside you. You are not a symbol of all women everywhere. You are not the archetype of the empowered feminine. You are an individual. A person. You are a lovely woman with a broken heart. You are an originator and disseminator of both thoughts I agree with and thoughts I reject. You are my sister. And my heart sorrows along with you. But for you to stand and declare that your disciplinary council is effectively mine denigrates my ideas and aspirations. It assumes (once more) that what you want is what I want. It puts women who are hurting into a place of more hurt. It takes the personal and makes it the political. I cannot understand the benefit of spreading your sorrow onto the burdened shoulders of such a diverse group of women. That is not an act of charitable love. It is not Christlike. It is not what I deserve.
Let me tell you what being put on trial has meant for me over the past 18 months. Being put on trial is a father so sick from graft vs host he stays up all all night in the hospital bathroom, weeping, losing his insides and then cleaning them up to spare the nurses. Over and over and over again. Being put on trial is watching your 18 year old brother say goodbye to his dad as the good man dies on a bed made with sheets that scratch. Being put on trial is watching your still young mother stand beside the casket of the man she loves. Alone for the first time in 30 years. Being put on trial is sitting at an unmarked grave while your five year old daughter cries and reaches for the man beneath the grass.
Being put on trial is understanding that sometimes the answer to even the most faithful and deserved prayers is, “No”. Not because there was a grand reason but because mortality is messy and backbreaking and so damn hard it will take your breath away until you have to remind your heart to beat. Being put on trial is reaching for the Atonement and feeling it lift you for just long enough until you plunge into the darkness again.
Kate, I’ve been on trial for the past year and a half. It’s not your trial. It’s mine. I wouldn’t wish it on you for the world. So please, for the love of God, stop wishing yours on me.