After being tried in absentia on June 22 by an all-male panel of judges, Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, has been convicted on an apostasy charge and is excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The panel found that she has been engaging in “conduct contrary to the laws and order” of the faith and the LDS church.
According to the website for Ordain Women, Kelly was told:
In order to be considered for readmission to the Church, you will need to demonstrate over a period of time that you have stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders and the doctrine of the priesthood. You must be truthful in your communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders, including the administration of Church discipline, and you must stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church.
Mormon priesthood is defined as “the authority to act in God’s name” according to mormon.org. The website also says:
All male members of the Church who are prepared receive the priesthood in order to help lead the Church and serve Heavenly Father’s children.
This decision is confusing and heartbreaking for Kelly and the other members of Ordain Women, an organization that fights for “Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the priesthood.” In what way is seeking equality within the Church a form of undermining it? Self-defined Mormon feminist Kathryn Soper wrote in 2010:
By definition, feminists challenge male authority; and by definition, Mormons defer to it.
This, she claimed, was the core conflict in Mormon feminism. Additionally, she wrote:
This conflict causes an obvious dilemma for Mormon feminists — resist patriarchy and you’re a bad Mormon, embrace patriarchy and you’re a bad feminist. It also leads to frequent and frustrating conversational disconnects between Mormon feminists and other Mormons regarding the dynamics of authority in the Church. Non-feminists point out that all Latter-day Saints, male and female, are expected to sustain and obey priesthood leaders without resistance; therefore, this can’t be a gender issue. Feminists counter that since every Mormon authority figure is male, this can’t not be a gender issue. And round and round it goes, opposite arguments centering on the same point: in a patriarchal church, it’s impossible to separate women’s submission to man from women’s submission to God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t allow men of black African descent to be ordained into the priesthood until 1978. It’s overdue to allow women as well. If, according to a verse in the second book of Nephi (within The Book of Mormon), “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile,” then why are women still excluded from priesthood?
Simone Lieban Levine is a rising junior at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an intern for Ms. Follow her on Twitter: @though_she_be.