So, Did Kate Kelly Get An Answer or Not?

ImageKate 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…

Be Encouraging…



9 thoughts on “So, Did Kate Kelly Get An Answer or Not?

  1. Christi

    I loved reading this article! I have always felt that Heavenly Father gave women something just as powerful as the priesthood and that is being a mother. Whether it be your own children or someone else’s, it is a powerful thing.

  2. designbytheresa

    Hello Brian,
    I am new here and have not read much you have written. However, due to seeing this blog post on Facebook, I wanted to provide you with a bit more information you seem to be unaware of. You noted that Elder Ballard spoke about women and the priesthood in conference in October 1993. You theorized that the Brethren had been praying about the role of women in the Church long before Kate Kelly, and you made it sound as though they were self-motivated or inspired to do so.

    But are you familiar with what happened in September 1993, a month before this address was given? The famous “September 6”, in which the Church disciplined six scholars, including several who were outspoken about the role of women. I find it probable that the only reason Elder Ballard gave this address was to assuage the many unsettled Mormon feminists at that time of shock and pain.

    As for the other recent changes you mentioned in the advancement of women’s opportunities in the Church—I strongly believe they are ALL due to Kate Kelly and her organization.

    1. BJM Post author

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I am very aware of the September 6, and I didn’t mean to make it sound as though the Brethren “were self-motivated”, though I believe they were inspired. I don’t pretend to know got the Brethren discussing, etc., these issues. If it was the Sept 6 and/or Kate Kelly, wonderful. I don’t know. Neither does anyone else, except the Brethren, unless they’ve explained it someone. Thanks for your thoughts and explanation. 🙂

    2. BJM Post author

      I am interested in your statement: “I find it probable that the only reason Elder Ballard gave this address was to assuage the many unsettled Mormon feminists at that time of shock and pain.” Other than a correlation of timing, what makes it “probable” that the “only” reason Elder Ballard gave that address was the Sept 6?

      1. designbytheresa

        Hi Brian,
        Thank you for your cordial response. You asked for clarification as to why I would believe that it was probable that the events of September 1993 may have been the “only” reason that Elder Ballard addressed women’s contributions in October of 1993. It has been my observation after my study of church history that no major reforms/revelations seem to occur without “agitation”, and this agitation gives the prophet a reason to inquire of the Lord something that had not been previously addressed. Can you name any major revelation/change that occurred without someone speaking up?

        The Word of Wisdom evolved from Emma complaining to Joseph about the mess the brethren left in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland after their meetings. The (first) official revelation to end polygamy occurred due to political pressure and the potential that Utah would not be allowed statehood if polygamy continued. The many revelations that banned African-Americans from the Priesthood were revised with a new revelation in 1978 allowing them access after civil rights activists within and without the Church spoke up (as well as the difficulty in determining who had African-American blood and who didn’t in Brazil).

        So while it may be that Elder Ballard was naturally inspired by the Lord to speak to the issue of women’s roles immediately following the excommunication of outspoken women’s rights activists, I personally think it very likely that the “only” reason he was thinking about those issues at all was because they had been brought to his attention by people speaking up, and he was concerned about the members’ reactions to the painful situation the Church was facing in the wake of disciplinary action.

        Some people really dislike the idea that revelation comes about only after prodding the leadership. Perhaps it gives people the wrong idea about how the Lord’s Church works. However—perhaps it could be that the Lord waits for people to speak up to determine whether or not they are ready to be blessed with new revelation.

      2. BJM Post author

        Great thoughts, and I believe what you’ve taught here. As a bishop, I often took things to the Lord after a member of the ward or an auxiliary leader or quorum leader asked about something. Certainly there were moments when the Lord blipped something onto my personal radar, but, as you’ve stated, much change happened in the ward due to a question, council, and revelation.

        I was listening to Utah Public Radio a number of months ago, driving home from a son’s soccer game. The host was interviewing a number of people involved (to one degree or another) in the stories of the feminist movement, Ordain Women, etc. One of the women who was being interviewed was a writer for some publication and had done extensive research into women’s roles in the LDS church, though she was not LDS herself. She was given audience with the General RS Board, a number of mission presidents, etc., etc., and made a very interesting comment. She explained that she didn’t know another church that listened so intently to the lay members of their faith in order to make decisions (this would point to your comment about the Brethren taking things to the Lord as a result of the items coming up from these interviews and discussions). What was also shared was the the Ordain Women movement hadn’t been given an audience with the Brethren or other leaders because of their non-negotiable demands. So, my thinking is that many of the changes that we’ve seen may have seed in some of the issues brought up by many women (and men) but I’m not sure Kate Kelly’s group is central in those dialogues. Of course, many of Kate Kelly’s words may have inspired others to bring items to the attention of the leaders of the church, which would give her a indirect influence, and that would make some sense to me, too.

        Of course I don’t know, but I just see the addresses from the leaders of the church stemming from a wide, wide range of experiences and influences, not isolated voices. So, Elder Ballard’s addresses certainly may be influenced by one degree or another by the “September 6”, but it seems to oversimplify things if I think he just wrote his talk to assuage the feelings of members in the wake of those excommunications. But, of course, I wasn’t in Elder Ballard’s head, so I don’t know 🙂 Thanks for the discussion!

    3. TheHappyRSPres

      I know that the conference talks have to be turned in for many reasons including interpreting into other languages, long before the Sept. 6th if 1993, that you (the reader) mentioned.

  3. Alicia Parker

    God is all knowing the world is on His time line. So when things happen it is well thought out and planned to be. Yes we all have agency and we need to prove to the Lord what we well choose. But he does know the outcome of our .decisions. It its a very gently woven thread all intertwined. Yrs the brethren prob were prodded by the events to ask but it is all within the Lord’s plan. the whole restoration happened because a boy asked what church is true. now some people will ask why are some excommunicated for asking, well i can’t know for sure but from my speculation when they don’t get the answer they want they publicly speak out and take others down a road of dissension instead of trusting in the Lord and His timing


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