Kate Kelly was recently excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Anyone who celebrates that decision shows a deep misunderstanding of the nature of the gospel and the Church. I feel for her, as she feels as though she has lost something very dear to her (though, I believe that could have been avoided, at some personal cost, of course).
Do I think she should have been excommunicated? That isn’t my call. I do trust the process (I know that not everyone does), and I trust the role of revelation that aided her bishopric in the decision (again, some may question that part of the process as well). I don’t know Kate Kelly’s heart (most people don’t either), so it would be unwise–and unkind–to speculate on whether she should be in or out of the church. What’s done is done, for now. Heavenly Father loves Kate Kelly and loves me, I know that.
So here’s my question: Kate Kelly wanted the Brethren to ask the Lord to allow women to be ordained to priesthood offices (I know she wanted more than that and that I’ve oversimplified). Did they? Did they ask?
Of course, I don’t know exactly what happens in the meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve or the First Presidency, but I think there is enough data to at least put forth a theory. Here it is: I believe the Brethren have been praying about the role of women in the Church, and I think they’ve been doing it long before Kate Kelly…
Here’s why (this is, for the most part, just from my memory….but I’m only 42, so I haven’t “seen it all”):
1. In General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard addressed the idea of women, the priesthood, and the different genders’ opportunities to contribute to “the work”. Notice that he made these statements in 1993, twenty years before any mention of the Ordain Women movement:
In a recent council meeting with the presidencies of the women’s auxiliaries, the sisters told me that very few women in the Church express any interest in wanting to hold the priesthood. But they do want to be heard and valued and want to make meaningful contributions to the stake or ward and its members that will serve the Lord and help accomplish the mission of the Church.
For example, not long ago we were talking about the worthiness of youth to serve missions. President Elaine Jack said, “You know, Elder Ballard, the sisters of the Church may have some good suggestions on how to better prepare the youth for missions if they were just asked. After all, you know, we are their mothers!” The sisters’ suggestions can help equally regarding temple attendance and a host of other matters with which priesthood leaders may be struggling.
Brethren, please be sure you are seeking the vital input of the sisters in your council meetings. Encourage all council members to share their suggestions and ideas about how the stake or ward can be more effective in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead. (M. Russell Ballard, October 1993)
2. I don’t know what relationship the Relief Society President has had with the Bishop in the Church down through the decades of the Church’s existence. I do know that the relationships that I had with the Relief Society Presidents with whom I worked were central to the success of the ward. More than central. Mandatory is a better word. And a blessing in every sense of the word. I’ve posted about this before.
3. Recently (2013), changes in women’s roles in the mission field were made. Sister missionaries were invited to serve in the leading councils of the mission:
Each mission in the Church will organize a mission leadership council that will include both elder (male) and sister (female) as missionary leaders. (Church Adjusts Mission Organization to Implement “Mission Leadership Council”, 5 April 2013)
4. For the first time in the Church’s history, a female leader of the Church offered a prayer in General Conference. See it here.
5. The Priesthood Session of General Conference is now broadcast, live, to homes via the internet, allowing anyone (regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, etc.) to view it. Access to this session of conference had been requested.
There may be more, I don’t know. I don’t know the exact genesis of any of these recent changes, but it looks as though the leadership of the Church is discussing, praying about, and making changes regarding the role of women in Christ’s Church. I believe as they’ve listened to members of the Church, both men and women, they’ve felt inspired to make changes in how “we do things” in the church. I think that has been happening for a long, long time.
Why have they not changed the policy regarding women and priesthood ordination? It seems as though the Lord has not commanded it. Understandably, that may be very frustrating for some people. Far from being unwilling regarding women’s roles though, the leadership of the Church seems very willing to listen, take matters to the Lord, and put any changes in place that they feel the Lord allows. That trend, that divine process, will continue, as it has since Peter and Paul…