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.

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45 Comments


  1. I have tried to explain why I feel how I feel about all of this. You put it so beautifully. Thank you so much.

    • Julie,

      Thank you for sharing. And reading. And always having so many beautiful insights of your own.

      meg

    • Thank you for making all of this more clear. I am glad that I have never been asked to stand at a trial of the leaders and I so hope that will never happen. I feel that the more that this is put in the media the more it give her reason to be vilified. To Tell the Lord how to run and manage his church is not right. I hope that as she looks at her family the more she will lose if she does not repent. That is the sad thing to me. Everyone has to make their own choice in this life and I am grateful for the Atonement that proffers me. I am not perfect and I can not judge her and I hope I am not judged either. When we stand before the savior he is going to ask one question and that is “What have you done in my name?”
      Thanks again I too do not want her wishes to be mine either.
      Barb

      • She NEVER wished anyone to go through what she is or has. That idea is a very fabrication of your own interpretation of her words. The last thing Kate needs right now is people putting words in her mouth.

        • She didn’t tell the truth too many times. From stating that her bishop “never” met with her (documented by the bishop in the letter informing her of her excommunication). To stating the Church “never” told her to not protest on temple square (she was asked by 5 separate representatives to not do what she did, video taped by the way) to openly wanting to meet with one of the leaders of Mormon Women Stand anywhere, anytime, anyplace, as she was in Utah in June/July and finding the leader lived in CA was willing to fly there BUT “couldn’t” fly back to a disciplinary council that would have been held at her convenience despite offers to pay for her ticket from others. A bit naive, she was pushed forward and upheld by some supporters but especially by known apostates (Tuscano, Fielding-Smith etc) and left to get what she deserved. A sad time of her own making.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. My stomach turns at all the nasty comments that are being made on social media about her excommunication and “getting what she deserved.” I feel nothing but sorrow for Kate Kelly.

    Your writing is so poignant and so perfect and cuts at my soul, every time. Thanks for your writings.

  3. This is so, so good. I agree with you so many times over. I have watched the ordain women movement with a lot of interest. I do not have the same feelings as women associated with that movement, and I do not seek ordination, but I feel compassion for women who feel so horribly over this issue. I have been very happy as the church has evaluated and expanded ideas based on the cultural norms versus doctrine. I realized that is where the difference is. It’s ok to wonder why a woman had never prayed in general conference. It’s ok to see if there are ways that sister missionaries can be used more effectively in leadership capacities. It is ok to give women expanded responsibilities in ward councils as they work alongside the brethren. It is not ok to counsel God instead of take counsel from his hand, to question his principles and demand that they align with our own. We all do it some times, but I hope not so publicly, and not in a way that inspires others to do the same. Pride is a hard one to move past. Thank you for articulating your thoughts so well. (and for letting me clog your comments, obviously I haven’t had a good forum for my thoughts either)

  4. A friend forwarded this onto me and as I’ve been avoiding reading anymore commentary on the issue I almost didn’t open the link. I’m now sitting here sobbing, feeling a burden lifted and prayers answered. My heart has been so so heavy the last week from comments, judgements, and horrible words. From both “sides” of this issue I have felt belittled and judged and hurt. I do not understand the need to take “sides” and the hurt and pain I feel is not from the issue but from the hate and awfulness surrounding it. This is none of our business and I hate that it has become so. I have been unable to express my thoughts on the issue to satisfaction and you just hit it on the head. Thank you for the relief and clarity and LOVE that you express here. Thank you, my sister.

    • The most distructive thing about all of this is that none of it was held in confidence and spread about on the media. This was and should have been something private. The thing that I was sad about was seeing friends that I know out there supporting her. She needs the support from her family instead. I wondered about her husband and children too. What has this done to them?

      • The Church always keeps it private unless the party involved makes it public as she did.
        She didn’t tell the truth too many times. From stating that her bishop “never” met with her (documented by the bishop in the letter informing her of her excommunication). To stating the Church “never” told her to not protest on temple square (she was asked by 5 separate representatives to not do what she did, video taped by the way) to openly wanting to meet with one of the leaders of Mormon Women Stand anywhere, anytime, anyplace, as she was in Utah in June/July and finding the leader lived in CA was willing to fly there BUT “couldn’t” fly back to a disciplinary council that would have been held at her convenience despite offers to pay for her ticket from others. A bit naive, she was pushed forward and upheld by some supporters but especially by known apostates (Tuscano, Fielding-Smith etc) and left to get what she deserved. A sad time of her own making.

  5. Meg-
    The statements of this being the punishment for all, trial for all, have clanged and clattered in their doctrinal dissonance in my soul. We are NOT responsible for the choices of others. We are not lumped together in the sight of The Lord. If anything, the loud declaration that it IS that way plants seeds in minds that this is the “correct” way to deal with Mormon feminists in wards. Yikes! I mourn for it all, most of all in that my heart hopes that she wil feel peace, and that she will achieve again the blessings of the temple.

  6. Meg
    You are an inspired, brave, well spoken friend!
    Thank you so much.

  7. Yes. Yes. Yes. So so good, thank you for being brave.

  8. This is absolutely wonderful… As usual. One of my very favorite things about our church is our ability to question. It’s such a crucial part of developing testimony of gospel truths. And we are blessed to be able, and encouraged, to do so. The Book of Mormon lovingly tells us to ask god if we lack wisdom or knowledge of the things which it teaches… How awesome is that!? That we are encouraged to speak to our Heavenly Father in earnest and ask him personally to bear witness to us of His truths. That’s remarkable! However… Gods truths don’t change. They are constant and everlasting and sure. Men and women are absolutely equal, and one cannot fully exercise their capacities without the other, but they are different. And different is okay. I am all for equality, but different is just fine by me. I love being a mother. I love doing that 100%. I don’t want to do both. I want to do just that. Just mom. And maybe everyone doesn’t feel that way, but I do. Thanks again for so eloquently embodying what I think most of us want to say, but just can’t. And ps… This month the young women theme has been the priesthood. Every young woman in the world has spent the month of June studying and learning about the wonderful blessing of the priesthood. And how each of them receive just as many blessings from the priesthood as those who hold it. All of gods children are blessed by the power of his everlasting giftt… The power of a literal god to be used to uplift and strengthen and serve here on earth. Tell me God doesn’t have a hand in that. There is absolutely no coincidence in the timing of this months YW theme and the events transpiring in the world. The answers come. Slowly and surely and always.

    • I can hold the Priesthood when I hug my husband. That’s the best way I think.

      • I love that, “I can hold the priesthood when I hug my husband”. It could say “…my dad/brother/grandfather, ect.” I may have to put that on a wall or plaque.

  9. You are a treasure. You have such a way of healing hearts and lending relief even to those whose views are the very opposite of your own. I’m so grateful.

    • Not that I think your views are opposite in this case, but you get what I’m saying?(I could never be famous, my foot would always be in my mouth). You’re amazing and compassionate and amazing.

  10. I was so hesitant to read this when I saw the title but I’m glad I did. I love your points. It helps me feel my way through these times.

  11. Yes, yes, yes. I have been feeling guilty lately that I don’t agree with everything OW is fighting for since I, too, am a feminist. But I thought that was one of the points of feminism–to recognize that every woman is different. Every woman has different wants and different needs. By lumping every Mormon feminist into her definition of what she believes feminism to be, it undermines the women themselves. I’m sure her comment wasn’t meant that way, but this post sure helped to realize I can still be a feminist and not agree with what OW preaches.

  12. Once again, you’ve used your words to build up, instead of tear down. I admire and love you, even though we’ve probably met once.

    I, too, am pro-person. We’re all individuals, struggling to return to our Heavenly Father. Our job is to help each other get there in one piece.

  13. Thankyou for this post. Most of what I read on this topic makes me feel so awful inside. I am crying inside for her and (even more) for the people who feel betrayed by this decision. But as a woman in the church I also feel offended by the fact that she feels she represents me. I love this post and love that I felt the spirit as I read it.

  14. Robert Buchanan

    Wow! I read this because a friend of mine on Facebook shared it. Very thoughtful and heartfelt! Well said, well said…

  15. While I support your sentiments of love and compassion, I found your take on Sister Kelly’s comments a bit…uncharitable. Across the bloggernacle, other women and men who are not affiliated with Ordain Women have been and are being called into their bishop’s office and formally or informally reprimanded lately. Hannah Wheelwright from Young Mormon Feminist and Alan Rock Waterman at Pure Mormonism are just two who have recently said that they are facing church discipline (not to mention John Dehlin). Brother Waterman asserts that his discipline order came from the 70, not from his local bishop, and there are more than a few indications that the same was true of Sister Kelly. I hate feeling this cynical, but there is no doubt in my mind that yesterday’s excommunication was, as least in part, about sending a message.

  16. Amen.

  17. I can’t handle one-uppers who insist, “my trials are harder than your trials… in fact your trials aren’t even trials.” What an incredibly insensitive way to invalidate someone else’s pain and heartache.

    • I agree. I can’t stand people who do that either. Thank goodness, there is none of that here. My point, in sharing my current trial, is that they are personal. When Kate says that all mormon feminists are being tried in the disciplinary court along with her she is creating a dialogue that consists of ultimatums and absolutes. She is creating an environment of us vs them. The nature of mormon feminism, the nature of mormons is too varied for that. We do not get to become symbols of the things we work for or hope for or go through. For example, if in my moments of disbelief over the past year (and there have been many) I had proclaimed, “The faith of every person that has a father they have lost or will lose is on trial with me.”, it would be fair to say that was a blanket statement that not only generalizes to the point of absurdity, it also leaves no room for the unique, lovely, hard, ever emerging experiences of those with (or without) fathers. I am not a symbol of grief. I am person who is dealing with grief. It is my personal trial. Kate is not a symbol of mormon feminism, she is a loud (and often brilliantly articulate) voice of the mormon feminist movement. But she is not the only voice. To claim the status of symbol (as she did in that quote) she is creating disillusionment, disenfranchisement and confusion. I think we all (including Kate) deserve better than that. Much love, meg

      • She IS a symbol because she is in the public eye. The way the church treats and reacts to her situation is indicative of how it will treat others who not only believe, but are willing to publicly vocalize that women’s roles need to be readdressed in the church. Insisting that she doesn’t speak for you individually doesn’t disqualify the fact that she does, in fact, speak for thousands of men and women. Many of whom were just getting comfortable finally stepping out of the shadows and raising their voices from a whisper. She is not “wishing her trial” on you. It’s a fact that there are many aspects of church life women are forbidden from participating in. As much as it may not bother you personally, it does NOT mean the situation doesn’t exist. The trial is there, felt more by some than others.

        • She (Kelly) maybe speaks for hundreds; don’t inflate her influence please. You can believe what you want and vocalize it BUT when you demand changes, gather a following, become public in your demands but then lie about the consequences/circumstances that lead up to a disciplinary situation, you will be dealt with. In this case it is not who is right but what is right in bringing the discipline. Can you imagine many many like rebellions over other imagined “wrongs”? Why some people get a bigger budget, why some wards get this or that? If the women can make a phone call and count it as visiting teaching and the men can’t do that for home teaching?

  18. Meg- I’m a Mormon feminist too. I don’t particularly feel like I’ve been put on trial along with Kate, because women’s ordination isn’t something I feel passionate about, but I know many women who do. They feel like some people around them are using Kate’s excommunication to point to them and say, “see, I told you so” or “see, you’re doing it wrong”.

    We can all be in different places with different trials and have different passions and hopes. We’re all still sisters. Love to those who are hurting and those who don’t understand, we’re all just trying to do our best.

  19. Grammar: “None of us DOES” not “do..”

  20. This. Just this. 1000 times this.

  21. Your words are beautiful. I try not to judge anyone….But when I joined the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints 26 years I vowed to sustain our General authority and the Prophet….so I just keep on keep on to the Iron rod….and worry and work on my own testimony and helping my children gain there’s.

    Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and strength to share share them.

  22. What I get from this is that you think Kate has brought this trial upon herself. Your trial of your father’s cancer was spontaneous. Therefore yours is harder.

    So if you’re gonna go head to head like that– I’m going to point out the obvious. If the world ended today, you would be with your father again. Kate on the other hand, as of yesterday, has no claim on eternal togetherness. No covenants. No blessings. No claim. No promise.

    Whether or not she deserves this, is not for me to decide. I do not support the OW movement. But I do know the heaviness by which priesthood leaders weigh the decision to strip someone of their temple blessings. And this is not something I gloat or glory in– in ANY situation.

    I am saddened for her. Because of how empty and lonely and sad she must feel today. Perhaps she is a really good person who is being deceived, as is prophesied that the elect will be. I pray for her to find the light again. And for me to stay close to the truth.

    Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood your tone. But I think you’re going to look back on this post and wish you had been less self-centered in your approach.

  23. Meg,

    I’ve been avoiding commenting on anything related to this today, as I feel so bruised and sad and conflicted, and just for the moment don’t want to expose those feelings to debate.

    But I wanted you to know that so much of what you said here chimes with my own feelings. Thanks for being brave enough to write it – an issue this emotionally charged will always bring a lot of negative comments, but here’s a heartfelt positive one for you: I think we’re on the same page here, and it makes me feel a little better, even while I feel hurt for everyone involved.

  24. Lovely, thank you.

  25. I agree with your views about the comments. What I have a problem with is your spin on Kate’s words to make this about you. Saying something “feels like” is not the same as saying it is, in absolute, nor does it mean she is “wishing” or wanting to put you, or me or anyone in her position. The fact is, she isn’t alone.

    My condolences on your personal “trial”. I am a cancer survivor and have horror stories I could tell about my survival that would make people weep, but for once can we not make this a “me” issue? Everybody has something. That’s not the point. The point is to mourn with Kate, or not. Anything related to us outside of that has nothing to do with that situation. This is about her and those who agree with her position. Since you don’t, no need to stress.

  26. Thanks for such an insightful post. I agree that this whole ordeal has been a bit disunifying (for lack of a better word…if that even is a word?) for all of us mormon women. I’ve hated that it seems like there’s been a line drawn and you’ve got to pick a side (neither of which you completely agree with). And i love the end about getting a “no” answer. I’ve felt the same way about things ever since my family lost my brother. Thanks! Love, love, LOVE your blog :)

  27. i don’t know where to begin. i don’t know which emotions to express first. i can’t write well, but i feel well.
    i grew up with a mother that’s considered a feminist and dare to say that i am one myself; by definition, i beleive that man and woman are equal, and that both deserve the same chances and the same opportunities.
    i love parts of what OW beleive but don’t support their cause on wanting to be ordained or feel the need for women to be ordained. i’m absolutely content not being ordained but on the other hand, if women were to be ordained, i’d honor and cherrish it. and i also beleive that it’s ok to ask questions. even to ask the leaders of our church.
    the leaders where asked and i feel like we all gotten an answer from elder oaks in this last general conference…
    i’ve been giving a talk on the priesthood recently and found it so refreshing to read from multiple leaders of the church, that women and men are equal and that both carry the priesthood power, after receiving the endowment. i love that we women are given priesthood authority according to our callings too. the priesthood is not just for man. they are not the only ones with power and with authority! but only worthy man are ordained to offices within the priesthood (such as elder, apostle, teacher…)
    i don’t mind that only men are ordained to priesthood offices and hold the keys because one day we’ll do it all together anyway! no one man needs to hold any specific key to be “saved” – holding the prieshood is more important than any office within. also, for a woman (and man), having the priesthood POWER is more important than holding any office within! and we all CAN have it. ALL!
    i get bothered so much by people trying to justify why men hold the prieshood offices. – why? because i don’t think we have an actual answer for it.
    i get irritated when people bring the “men need to learn more than women, because women are already more pure” crap or when people come with motherhood as being more powerful than fatherhood, because that simply is NOT the truth! both motherhood and fatherhood are unique and equally powerful, both man and woman have the same things to learn here. no one gender is more pure! it’s a personal matter of what you learn or work on!
    trying to overcompensate for women not holding the pristhood keys by stating stuff like that is just really low because while meant well, it’s degrating. we don’t need to be lifted, we are on the same level as man. we don’t need to be higher then man, because that contridicts the teachings of the gospel.
    so, see, when i say things like that, people automatically assume that i am the type of feminist that wants to be ordained. but in all reality, i’m the type of feminist that wants to understand more and that wants others to understand with me.
    so, thank you for making me feel understood. thanks for sharing my passion for wanting more equality. thanks for what you wrote. it touched my heart and i cried a little. because i feel like we are walking right next to each other on this one!
    it’s ok to ask, and it’s ok if the answer is no. and it’s ok if that bothers someone.
    i am glad to say i asked, i’m glad to say that i got an answer and i’m glad to say that i’ve learned from my questions!

    • i get bothered so much by people trying to justify why men hold the prieshood offices. – why? because i don’t think we have an actual answer for it.
      i get irritated when people bring the “men need to learn more than women, because women are already more pure” crap or when people come with motherhood as THANK YOU YES I LOVED THIS!!! —> “being more powerful than fatherhood, because that simply is NOT the truth! both motherhood and fatherhood are unique and equally powerful, both man and woman have the same things to learn here. no one gender is more pure! it’s a personal matter of what you learn or work on!
      trying to overcompensate for women not holding the pristhood keys by stating stuff like that is just really low because while meant well, it’s degrating. we don’t need to be lifted, we are on the same level as man. we don’t need to be higher then man, because that contridicts the teachings of the gospel.”

      Amen, sista.

  28. First, I must be honest and say that I am not LDS, and I recognize that I do not understand the fine intricacies of this topic/debate.

    However, I did want to share my own experience. I am a member of the Community of Christ (RLDS), and I was ordained a Priest 2 years ago. Prior to my call, I knew. I can’t explain it, I just did. I spent a tearful hour in the car with my mother (who was an Elder, now a High Priest/Patriarch) on a trip one time, trying to explain my feelings and figure out what God was wanting from me. All I knew was that I needed to be there for people. I knew I didn’t need the priesthood at all to do that, but I just felt some call to something more, to share in that ministry with my sisters and brothers.

    I cannot imagine feeling that strong of a call and knowing that I could not ever be offered the priesthood and serve my God in that capacity, especially if it was only due to my sex. That would have left me in a very confusing place, stuck between what I truly believed were the wishes of God and the unfortunate limits of human understanding.

    I am not trying to say that what you are feeling is any less true than what Kate is feeling, I am only trying to illuminate the struggles that she may be going through, between what she believes is her call from God and her desire to belong to a community that she obviously loves and wants to serve. Regardless of whether she is right or wrong in God’s eyes (we’ll probably never know in this life) I know that he loves her beyond measure. To excommunicate her in this difficult time in her faith journey and deny her the community that she desperately needs is heartbreaking. I cannot see the compassion in that.

    I hope that the Saints as a whole can come to a resolution that acknowledges the real feelings and calls that these women feel they are experiencing. At the very least, I hope that even those who struggle, protest, and say hurtful things can be loved unconditionally, just as the Creator loves, and not be denied the support of their sisters, brothers, and leaders of the church. Love is always the best answer.

  29. This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  30. Beautiful! Made me cry. Thanks for writing…

  31. this was very powerful. thank you for sharing.

  32. Amen. Thank you for putting into words what I could not. I agree whole heartedly!

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