No Discipline Cases Elder Oaks?

 

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By Jenny

Listening to Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson yesterday on Trib Talk, I came to a sudden realization.  I think they genuinely don’t understand what is happening to thousands of members of their church.  I guess that’s bound to be the case in a church of millions.  Yet I can’t help but expect more from someone who holds the title of “apostle.”

They were asked a complex set of questions stemming from multiple online sources about whether members of the church would be disciplined for speaking out about opposing beliefs and supporting groups like Affirmation and Ordain Women.  The multiplicity of these questions suggested that this kind of discipline has taken place quite rampantly and many people share a strong fear surrounding this issue.

Elder Christofferson took the first stab at an answer. “It doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders.  If that’s a deliberate and a persistent effort and trying to get others to follow, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.  That’s very different for us than someone who feels one way or another on a political stance or a particular action to support a group, Affirmation or any others that you named.”

So apparently you can support say, Ordain Women, so long as you are not attacking church leaders and trying to get people to leave the church.  What constitutes attacking leaders?  If I think that they are wrong about LGBT issues and women not holding the priesthood and I speak up about that, am I attacking them?  Elder Christofferson seems to be suggesting that it’s okay to speak up and to disagree with them.  So who’s to be the judge whether your vocal opposition is an attack or not?  Oh, right, that’s what we have Judges in Israel for.

According to Elder Oaks, “Questions you ask are not resolved at church headquarters, they’re resolved by prayerful consideration of a bishop who’s been taught the principles of love, and the limits that apply.  And I find it quite significant that despite all the worry along the lines that you mentioned I haven’t heard of a discipline case.”

Yes, Elder Oaks, there was a lot of worry in that line of questioning, wasn’t there?  Perhaps there’s a reason for that.  Perhaps we can look at some real life scenarios for a moment to see how well our bishops have been taught the principles of love.  Side note: I don’t remember Christ teaching us about limits that apply to love.  I’m pretty sure that true charity is limitless.  Since Elder Oaks has not heard of a single discipline case, I will start with mine.

Was I attacking the church?  No.  Was I telling people to leave?  No.  Here’s what I was doing.  I was faithfully fulfilling my calling as a counselor in the primary presidency, teaching the children that they had a Mother and Father in Heaven who loved them.  In the online world I posted about an interfaith fast for equality in religion sponsored by Ordain Women.  And when my friends posted anti-ordain women stuff, I defended them.  That resulted in multiple meetings with my stake president and bishop, lots of counseling and well, attacking.  They attacked my intelligence, my testimony, my faith, my understanding of the gospel.  They told me I was on a slippery slope to apostasy, if I wasn’t already there.  They told me that there was little chance that I could renew my temple recommend if I continued down this path.  All of this they did in a condescending tone.  Believe me, love was not a word that I would use to describe the principle my bishop and stake president were acting on.  After two and a half hours in a meeting with my stake president and bishop while my kids went crazy in the foyer, I had finally had enough attacking for one day and I walked out.

The next thing I knew, I was being publicly shamed at church.  Do you know what happens when your bishop publicly shames you at church?  You start to have random visitors at your house calling you to repentance.  You are shunned and you become an outcast to your community.  And no one will ever know your story because they trust the man in authority, and he has told them his own version of the story.  I lost my calling and everything that makes me want to stay at church.  So tell me, Elder Oaks and Christofferson, who was it here that was pulling people away from the church?  In my case, my bishop and stake president were the offenders.

What’s that you say Elder Christofferson?  “They’re in a position, the local leadership to really way what’s going on…they’re in a position to understand what’s really in a person’s heart and where they’re coming from.”

That’s not what I experienced.  And I’m not alone.  Now that you’ve finally heard of one case of discipline for merely believing differently and being vocal about it, let me tell you about my friends.  Many many people have been in meetings with their local leaders like the one I have described.  They have been harassed by endless phone calls, emails, and texts.  Their faith has been ripped apart by heartless words.  They have been coerced to go against their conscience in order to attend a family event in the temple.  They have been publicly shamed by someone in authority, mocked, ridiculed, and cast out by their communities.  And a few have even faced the full disciplinary process.  Tell me who is pulling people out of the church?

I think our leaders genuinely don’t know that this is happening.  Perhaps they place too much trust in local leaders.  Perhaps they are trying to follow the principle of not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing.  But here’s the problem with that.  They aren’t a hand, they are the head.  And the head should know what the hand is doing.  If it doesn’t, then we belong to a rather dysfunctional and volatile body.  Like I said before, I guess I just expect more from men who bear the title of apostle.  Jesus taught his apostles to walk among the people, to listen to them and understand them.  He taught them not just to understand those in the center, but also the people on the margins, the outcasts, the publicans and sinners, the Samaritans.  If Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson would do that, I think they would understand the worry behind that interview question.  I think they would understand that people are being disciplined simply for following their conscience and speaking out about their differing beliefs.

Jenny

Jenny graduated from BYU with a bachelor degree in humanities. she teaches yoga classes and spends her time hanging out with her four kids, reading, writing, and running.

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58 Responses

  1. n says:

    The brethren in Salt Lake receiver and review a report of every formal disciplinary action. So of course they know what is going on.

    • Jenny says:

      Formal discipline is not the only form of discipline. Informal discipline is more common and painful enough in its own right. If the leaders know this happens as much as it does, why did Elder Oaks say himself that he didn’t know of any cases?

      • Aaron Crandall says:

        Because, when they are talking to the media, they can be, well, less then honest. You don’t have to look too far for many examples.

      • martha my love says:

        Because, when they are talking to the media, they can be, well, less then honest. You don’t have to look too far for many examples.

        I’m not sure I’m understanding. Are you excusing

        apostles for lying in public? Yes, I know it’s happened before. Pres. Hinkley said to Larry King before the whole nation “I don’ know that we teach that” about apotheosis. But are our highest examples of morality and worthiness to become gods supposed to be engaging in the most deliberate sort of crass Machiavellian sin?

        I prefer to be corrected on this because this is something I will not accept.

      • Vajra says:

        It’s called plausible deniability.

    • Libby says:

      I know several people who have been forced out of the Church without a formal court. If their local leaders make life difficult enough for them–especially by talking about them and their opinions publicly–it’s nearly impossible to stay.

  2. This is so discouraging. Thank you for this post, Jenny.

  3. I think Elder Oaks was specifically addressing the topic of homosexuality, Ordain Women was briefly mentioning only in passing at the end of the question and the Apostles had said that they were focusing specifically on the topics of homosexuality and religious freedom. I am not aware of anyone subject to formal discipline on the topic of same-sex marriage in particular, which was the focus of the question.

    Elder Oaks and Christofferson also both acknowledged that more training and guidance is needed on the local level to ensure uniformity and consistency (it was the answer to the question before this one).

    • I do not think that more training to local leaders is the answer. This is a systemic problem and needs system-level solutions. Policy change is needed, to give local ecclesiastical leaders less authority to make up and enforce their own rules, to eliminate “informal” discipline in which local leaders can unilaterally punish parishioners without record or witness or oversight, to give parishioners recourse to report inappropriate behavior by local leaders, and to give women a voice in church discipline and church policy-making.

      At the general level of church governance, I hear consistent messages scapegoating local leaders for abuses, but no action to systemically prevent such abuses through systems and policy change.

      • Training is a way to address systemic problems. Especially in a top down church, when the leaders of the Church speak clearly on a particular issue of policy, it makes a huge impact at all levels of the Church.

  4. Jenny says:

    The main point of the question was, “Can members speak up about their different opinions without fear of losing their standing in the church?” The answer was basically yes, and no one has lost their standing in the church over this. I don’t think it matters whether it’s over womens issues or supporting the LGBT community, informal discipline is happening and Elder Oaks made it seem like he doesn’t know about it.

    • Jessica says:

      A few conferences ago, an apostle praised a member who shared on facebook that he “believed that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

      As I was listening, I just knew that I would be branded “on the road to apostasy” by most of my LDS friends if I were to post something as benign as “I believe in the separation of church and state.” Which I DO.

      I’m ashamed of so many aspects of this culture that I’m raising my children in.

      I’m upset that the definition of apostasy is so vague. Someone can be kicked out or disciplined for telling the truth. For asking questions.

      The message that I find myself thinking over and over again as I see braver souls than I asking hard questions or sharing unpopular opinions is “what lies are they telling?”

      What lies did April tell? What lies did Kate tell?

      I have no hope whatsoever that women will ever receive the priesthood in this life. We’re to be our husband’s priestess in the next life. Elisothel’s essay was probably the most disheartening thing I’ve read in my life. (aside from all the atrocities going on in the world of course. I mean personally disheartening)

      This is my church. I think that most “judges in Israel” would hate this comment, shame me for ever reading April, Kate, or Elisothel’s words, and then find some way to correct/reprimand/punish me.

      All the while I would be thinking “what lies did they tell?”

  5. Ziff says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Jenny, and pointing out this huge disconnect. I’m sorry that you’ve been treated so badly.

    “I think our leaders genuinely don’t know that this is happening.”

    I really hope that you’re right. What I’m afraid of is that they do know that this type of thing is happening, but through some kind of definitional gymnastics, they’ve decided that cases like yours, or April’s, or anyone else’s who this has happened to, don’t qualify.

    • Liffey Banks says:

      I share your less-than-optimistic views. In some ways by insisting that no one’s been punished for the progressive views they hold – just for “attacking” the church – is a way of pushing the suspicion on the people who’ve been disciplined. I.E. since he says you’d never be disciplined solely for your views, and yet you _have_ been disciplined for some reason, obviously you must have done something else more sinister.

      I see this whenever anyone comes forward to talk about ecclesiastical abuse. Doubt is cast on the the disciplined person but never on the bishop or stake pres. “That can’t be the whole story, you must have don’t something else.”

  6. EFH says:

    So sad to hear you having gone through such an experience. I do not know what I would have done in your case. I speak openly about what I think but I also have a very loving bishop who reads the Exponent Magazine every time it is given to him. He doesn’t have answers for a lot of things but he tries to be a human more than a leader.

    I have chosen to not have a temple recommend and it has been more than a decade now. Even though this brings some pain to my husband because we are not sealed yet, I find it liberating because it has been on my own terms and timing. Many are so worried about my salvation but I am not because I think that God is more than the institutional church and more the the ordinances.

    I can imagine the hurt that has come to many members who are not treated fairly and have been put under pressure with the renewal of the temple recommends. But perhaps, that is the way to go – to renounce our temple recommends as a protest that we cannot worship our Heavenly Father as his children under the church’s unreasonable institutional demands and pressures that have nothing to do with God and his salvation plan. The pressure that the church puts on members with the temple recommends and excommunication very medieval and in a couple of decades they will apologize for it.

    It is God who brings salvation to men not the church, not even His church.

  7. martha my love says:

    I don’t think Ordain Women or homosexuality are the main issue anymore. I think the far bigger issue is leadership that is inconsistent and sometimes even abusive at the local level and insensitive, uninspired and too often absent at the highest level.

    It is causing deep divisions when people have to go looking for their own inspiration when leadership fails. And blaming the community of the church for the failure of leadership is certainly not the solution. Where is President Monson at this tumultuous time and where is the guidance the prophet should be providing?

    • Dafydd Ap Owain says:

      President Monson is suffering from dementia, and the other apostles don’t trust him to speak without a teleprompter at this time. The extent of his illness is a guarded secret, just as was the case with Ezra Taft Benson.

      • martha my love says:

        If the church is without a prophet that explains a lot of what’s been going on for the lasts several years. But if the remaining 14 can’t exhibit some leadership equal to the painful divisions and questionable public disciplinings following one upon another it doesn’t bode well for the next prophet.

      • Heather says:

        That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard all day. You apparently didn’t watch Pres. Monson speak in the last conference. He also dedicated the Ogden temple in September- (maybe you were not able to caught that; I missed seeing him myself). If he had dementia, he wouldn’t be out an about like that, and certainly not giving the sermons like he does. Clearly his mind is fully engaged, and for someone who is over 90, he acts like a 70 year old. He is very much leading the Church, despite what some people imagine is going on.

      • martha my love says:

        OK, he’s not suffering from dementia.

        I wonder if it’s not dementia why he’s not front and center leading the church at this critical time when so many are suffering from confusion or have a very clear and compelling sense that the church is going in directions that don’t make sense?

      • Heather says:

        Martha My Love, You ask a fair question. However, I think Pres. Monson is leading the Church as the Lord inspires him. He might assign some things to apostles instead of doing them himself- what they say carries the same weight to me. Perhaps when things run their coarse on issues you might be referring to, he will say something directly himself so there is no room for misunderstanding. Perhaps this wait is a test to see who is in tune with the Spirit and will accept the apostles assigned to say things by the prophet. I take a different view of some things than you do, and not hearing Pres. Monson speak himself is a bit frustrating to me too (although perhaps less so than it is for you). My gut feeling is that if anyone down the line is doing something inappropriately, Pres. Monson would pick up the phone and call someone to repentance. It may be that he feels what is happening is what is appropriate. It’s not like he is locked away in a closet and can not read what is going on.

      • martha my love says:

        IF President Monson has nothing to offer at this painful, divisive and critical time for the church he is NOT a leader.

        If Elder Oaks’ bullying is the best the church has to offer when saints are hurting and being driven out and looking for a message that they can hold onto then I am afraid for the future of the church.

        I’m sure someone else could say that better but I’m tired of pretending that every thing’s OK in Zion and tired of looking to the wrong people for answers that don’t correlate with Christ’s 2 great commandments.

      • Hillary says:

        I think President Monson is suffering from dementia. Heather, perhaps you are not entirely familiar with dementia or seen how it can affect people. It does not surprise me in the least that on occasion someone would be able to “get it together” enough to speak at a function or two, especially when there is sufficient time for careful rehearsal (as would be the case with a dedication or conference address) and pharmaceutical help.

        For what it’s worth, I have heard a number of personal accounts of President Monson’s failing health and mental acuity. It is too bad that at a time like this, when there has been so much pain and upheaval, that we can feel essentially leader-less. Perhaps it’s time for him to emulate our Catholic brethren and abdicate like Pope Benedict did? Perhaps that would help us move forward?

      • mylifeintune says:

        Pres. Monson does have dementia. My dad was at a training mtg a few years ago with E. Perry when someone asked how Pres. Monson was doing. Elder Perry said that he has dementia and would frequently tell the same story/experience three times in the same casual conversation, but that during meetings and councils he tended to be more focused. Obviously he retains his mental faculties as he still addresses the saints (in conference and elsewhere), but his short-term memory is going, and I don’t think he speaks off the cuff anymore.

        I don’t think Pres. Monson will ever come out and label OW as apostate, but that’s just my opinion. I almost wish they would make a statement one way or another, though, because leadership roulette is terrifying. Especially in light of views like Heather’s. Stating you feel attacked, bullied, and patronized by leaders relates your feelings and experience, and to be guilted or shamed by other members amounts to victim blaming (“you’re lying, or you must have done something to deserve it”). I’m so sorry, Jenny. It is a helpless feeling.

      • Heather says:

        Hillary, perhaps I am confusing dementia with Alzheimer’s. But if you want the prophet to step down, you know who is next in line. If you don’t like Thomas S. Monson with dementia, how would you like Boyd K. Packer full of vinegar? He seems to have it all together enough to rile up anyone who is out of line. Like they say, be careful what you wish for cause you just might get it.

        I get the concern about leadership roulette; I know of at least one bishop who seems to be totally fine with OW, while others will not call you to any position in YW, YM, or primary or renew your temple recommend if you even “like” the OW Facebook page. But the apostles and First Presidency seem to be pretty united on everything when ever they speak. You might be deluding yourself if you think that a change of one man will cause a change of fortunes for you on this issue.

      • Heather says:

        Hillary, I just took the time to watch all 4 of Pres. Monson’s talks from the October 2014 Conference. He clearly has his full mental capacity without any help from the drug store. His talk on Sunday morning contained a powerful highlight, stating that the path of disobedience brings captivity and sorrow. Such power doesn’t come from a person without full mental capacity. His talk in the priesthood session contained a deliberate rebuttal to some of the un-Christ-like things said on the OW Facebook page about Pres. N. Eldon Tanner. He quoted Pres. Tanner and spoke praise of him for nearly a minute and a half. If you made a big deal out of Pres. Uchtdorf referring to the General Women’s meeting as the “first” session of General Conference, then you better believe that Pres. Monson’s praise of Pres. Tanner was a shot across the bow of OW after the meme of Pres. Tanner that was posted on OW’s Facebook page. All this leads me to conclude that not only is Pres. Monson clearly in charge at the Church office building. Any stories about Pres. Monson not being able to lead the Church obviously originate from those who want to undermine his authority.

      • Ziff says:

        Heather, I think there is approximately a zero percent probability that you can reliably diagnose dementia by watching someone read talks off a teleprompter on TV. I don’t know whether he has dementia or not, but your anxiousness to conclude that he doesn’t is no evidence that you’re right.

  8. Jessica says:

    So where’s the petition to sign? I haven’t (yet) had the experience you are citing, but I would totes sign my name to a petition to the corporation of the presidents saying that the local-level intimidation has got to stop.

  9. Cruelest Month says:

    Jenny,
    Thank you for being so open about your experiences. This past year my eyes have been opened to how vulnerable members are to the whims and prejudices of their local leaders. What a loss to your community that you are not allowed to speak your mind and fully participate. I can not believe that Elder Oaks is unaware of what local leaders are doing. My assumption is that he is lying. If he’s not aware, he should be. A shepherd should know their flock. I fear far more damage is done to the cause of Zion by power abusing leaders than members on the margins that pose questions and strive for truth according to the principles of their heart and mind.

  10. Clean Cut says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post. This is indeed an issue that worries those of us down at the grass roots level, far more than Elder Oaks apparently understands. Because these cases are not “formal” discipline, but based on misunderstandings and often on fears, there isn’t a lot of trust for those of us who follow our conscience even if that leads us to different conclusions than the general leadership. Some local bishops are amazing and some are absolutely unbelievably bad in dealing with the diversity along the belief spectrum or even the sexuality spectrum.

    That bishop roulette is real cannot be denied.

  11. Heather says:

    “Speaking out about differing beliefs” is another way of saying “teaching as church doctrine material that is not church doctrine”, and that is one of the definitions of apostasy. If you do it, you can expect to have a meeting with the bishop or stake president. If you continue to do it after being corrected but the bishop or higher authority, you can expect to be disciplined. It really is that simple. And about that voice that leads you to do things differently, it might not be your conscience, but could be the devil leading you astray.

    • Suzanne says:

      It might not be your conscience? Oh no no no – I can only speak for myself, but I most certainly do know what my conscience is and it leads me to do good. I can sleep at night just fine.

    • Jenny says:

      Heather, I don’t know if you saw the Trib Talk interview. I quoted Elder Christofferson in the post above, saying that it is okay to have beliefs that are different from the main body of the church, to participate in OW or Affirmation and to speak out about differing beliefs. He made no mention of that being apostasy. So you are essentially saying the opposite of what he said. I guess in a way, that proves his points that no one will ever agree perfectly in the church. You yourself right now are disagreeing with an apostle and speaking out about it. Also, it is really harsh to tell someone else that their personal revelation that they have built their faith on comes from the devil. All you need to do to know how that feels is to turn it around and imagine someone else saying that about your beliefs. People used to say the same thing about Joseph Smith and his revelations.

      • Heather says:

        Jenny, I actually had not seen the interview, only the press conference the day before, prior to my comment. Part of what I said came across in an un-Christ-like way- sorry for that. It was stated at the start that it was all about same sex marriage, but then the interviewer let a reference to OW slip in. Elder Oaks was not speaking about people like you who have been disciplined informally for involvement in OW- he just let down his guard and didn’t specify that.

        At the same time, we have been warned that there will be those who try to teach false doctrines. One way I use to recognize those wolves in sheep’s clothing is if they speak evil of the Lord’s anointed- and that includes bishops and stake presidents, not just apostles. Ask yourself this, “Does what I have written give someone who doesn’t know me the impression that I am speaking evil of my priesthood leaders who do know me?” I hope you are better at sustaining your local leaders than your essay seems to portray. We obviously disagree on the issue that concerns you. I hope that the prophet himself settles the issue sooner rather than later- it is causing divisions in the Church. Hopefully we both sustain Pres. Monson no matter what it is he says whenever he speaks.

      • Ziff says:

        I really don’t agree with your litmus test. Willingness or ability to recognize the fallibility of even local leaders is an asset, not a liability.

      • Jenny says:

        Heather, I transcribed the full question so that we can look at what she actually asked: “Many questioners want some clarity from you on what public advocacy means. I’m just going to give you a sample; here’s EC writing in an email: “As a believing active Mormon, who also strongly believes in gay rights, it is unclear whether I can belong to an advocacy group, march in a parade, participate in a public action with groups like Affirmation or Mormon’s Building Bridges, or even post to my facebook wall about these issues without facing discipline.” A related question on twitter from Jen, “If I support my gay son by marching in a parade will I lose my temple recommend or be excommunicated?” And finally another, Jason Bryant, “I’m an active member in good standing, I want to understand whether publicly supporting gay marriage or groups like Ordain Women could cause me to lose my temple recommend? If I privately believe in these ideals, would I still be temple worthy, and if so, then why would the act of public expression make me unworthy if a privately held belief does not. What is the difference between a belief and its expression?” Maybe you and I have interpreted the question and the answer differently. Part of that probably has to do with the fact that I talk on a regular basis with people who have faced informal discipline for a number of different things they have advocated for. Sometimes it’s women and the priesthood, sometimes it’s gay rights, sometimes it’s both. If I had been more vocal about gay rights than women and the priesthood, I’m certain I would have faced the same consequence. So it makes no difference to me whether it’s gay rights or women and the priesthood. The main gist of the question was, can you vocally disagree with the main body of the church and still maintain your good standing as a member?
        To your second point, I tend to agree with Joseph Smith when he said, “We have learned by sad experience that it is in the nature and disposition of all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” Therefore, I don’t believe sustaining leaders involves giving them a blank check to do whatever they wish. I also don’t think that disagreeing with them and speaking out about abuses that I have experienced under their authority is speaking evil of them. To me, speaking evil means telling false stories about them or personally attacking them. If I had said that my bishop was a “backward idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” then yes, I would be speaking evil of him. I personally don’t feel that it’s okay to speak evil of anyone, so I try not to. But in this essay, I tried to keep my words to my story and what happened to me. Sure, it’s full of my personal biases, but if you’re going to accuse me of speaking evil of my bishop and stake president, I’d like you to point out to me where I did that. I think the problem is that we as Mormons don’t realize that we can disagree with our leaders and we can speak up when things don’t feel right to us, without speaking evil of them.

      • Heather says:

        Jenny, In your essay you said, “…That resulted in multiple meetings with my stake president and bishop, lots of counseling and well, attacking. They attacked my intelligence, my testimony, my faith, my understanding of the gospel. … All of this they did in a condescending tone. Believe me, love was not a word that I would use to describe the principle my bishop and stake president were acting on. …” These sentences can leave the impression that you are accusing your priesthood leaders of exercising unrightous dominion, which I think is speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed. Yes, it does happen that some priesthood leaders do exercise unrightous dominion. I didn’t read your Facebook page nor was I in the room when this all happened, so I can’t speak to the validity of their reason for disciplining you or your claim of them acting unrightously. Ultimately, it seems that we will both have to wait until Pres. Monson says something directly to settle the matter, so their is little point to trying to convince each other on the issue you were disciplined for.

        Personally, I feel it is fine for other churches to marry gay couples and have it be as legal as any other marriage even though I think that homosexual actions are a sin. But if I were to say the Church should change its doctrine and start conducting gay marriages in the temple or by the bishop, then I would expect to be disciplined for that. I have friends who are much more vocal about legalizing gay marriage than I am and they have never been disciplined in any way. Because OW cites scripture as a means of saying that women should be ordained, I think it is appropriate for discipline or corrective council or something to be done by local priesthood leaders because it is very different than saying, “I wonder what it would be like if women were ordained.” Or “Why aren’t women ordained? ”

        My understanding of informal discipline is that it is a last ditch effort to get someone to turn back from the path of apostasy before it is too late. Once I said something in a testimony meeting that really was not doctrinally sound. A wise priesthood leader who I really respected spoke to me about that in a gentile but firm way. I realize now (20+ years later) that my own pride had been paving a path towards apostasy and am grateful for the correction I received. Maybe corrective council was all that was needed in your case- if that would have gotten you to distance yourself from OW and its teachings. Maybe your leaders were not as skillful or as Christ-like as mine was in this effort. But if you keep on this path of digging in your heels, I fear that your local leaders will take formal disciplinary action against you once Pres. Monson says something directly about OW, if he effectively labels it as an apostate group. Like I said before, I will sustain Pres. Monson in what he says even if it doesn’t match what I think he will say because I made covenants to sustain the prophet and I have the integrity to be true to my covenants, even if I must humble myself and admit my stance on an issue was wrong. I hope you will have the integrity to sustain the prophet too.

      • Jenny says:

        You’re right, there is no point in trying to convince each other whether supporting Ordain Women or gay rights is a valid reason for discipline. And there is very little guidance on that matter from our leadership at the present moment. Nonetheless, the quote you took from my post above is what happened to me. If I am speaking evil of my leaders when I write about what they did, perhaps that’s because their actions were “evil” (though I wouldn’t really use that word to describe their actions ). If my leaders had acted “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned…” then I would have no reason to accuse them of unrighteous dominion. I am an adult woman and I expect adult men to talk to me with respect, to keep their comments to the topic at hand without making personal attacks on my faith and intelligence, and to discuss their issues with me in an adult manner until the issue is resolved, without taking it before a congregation of judgmental, gossipy Mormons in a shameful way. I can sustain my leaders, but part of sustaining means to assist and help. I am not helping them if I allow them to do things that are wrong without giving them feedback. They can’t understand things from my perspective, or the perspective of women who have been hurt by a patriarchal church, or of gay members who are hurting, unless we help them to understand it from our perspective. I do value integrity, and my integrity requires that I don’t blindly follow leaders in the wrong direction. My integrity requires that I speak up when I know something is wrong.

      • martha my love says:

        It’s always so wonderful when you’ve been treated badly and then someone who has no idea what transpired tells you it’s your fault and you’re disrespecting the person who was abusive.

    • Lena says:

      Heather, I’m not sure how you get from “speaking out about differing beliefs” directly to ““teaching as church doctrine material that is not church doctrine”, and that is one of the definitions of apostasy.” I can say “I believe marriage is a civil right that should include all couples,” without saying “the doctrine of the church is that marriage is not only between one man and one woman.” One is a differing opinion, the other is, well, the definition of apostate. Stating an opinion is not the same as teaching something as doctrine. Now, if I stood up in Sunday school as the teacher and said, “The scriptures teach that men should be able to marry men and women should be able to marry women,” then that would be teaching false doctrine, and apostasy. However, if I stood up and said, “From my reading, I can’t see where the scriptures speak on same-sex marriage,” that would not be false doctrine, it would simply be an opinion. And, actually, totally factually true.

      • Heather says:

        Comment

      • Heather says:

        Lena, I agree with you about it being fine to vote for legalizing same sex marriage. (I don’t mind if the minister at the church down the street performs a marriage like that, as long as our bishops are never forced to perform the marriage.) But to say the scriptures don’t say anything about homosexuals is wrong- Paul said a lot, and the Old Testament does too. I have heard ministers of other religions say that those verses no longer apply, but they are their. The interview was strictly on the topic of same sex marriage, the interviewer stated that clearly at the start. She should have dropped the reference to Ordain Women from that question. Jenny’s issue is a whole different matter which was not being addressed by the apostles. Clearly her bishop and stake president see that group as one which teaches as doctrine info that is not doctrine. So they acted as they saw fit, possibly in hopes of stopping her involvement in the group before she crosses the line and they have to excommunicate her.

      • Ziff says:

        In total volume, the scriptures say virtually nothing about homosexuality. The tiny number of verses that mention it in passing are nothing compared to say, how often they refer to the evils of not helping the poor. But those few verses have been blown up into a gigantic issue.

    • Matthew says:

      Heather, Its possible that its not God, but Elder Christofferson has said to many people, at least it has been reported many times over the Internet, that Elder Christofferson has stated explicity that your own personal revelations and your own answers to prayers trumps church doctrine every day of this week, so this is a green light to ignore things from the brethren or general conference that go against that — that is not say there will not be consequences like discipline for doing that — but that we need not follow the brethren. He said that at least with respect to homosexuality in conversations that have been repeated on the Internet and I’ve never seen a retraction of that view. Which perhaps suggests that local leaders might want to exercise caution in those cases because Christofferson seemed to hint that doctrines may be evolving, may be in flux, we may be in another period where revelations will come forth at least on homosexuality specifically because the church may be changing.

  12. Teacher says:

    As of last Sunday we have a new SP. Someone commented that he has been put in to “whip us all into shape”. Needless to say I won’t saying anything at church for the next 10 years. There are lots of ways to discipline people without letting SLC know.

  13. Bonnie B says:

    I appreciate this perspective put into words. I was a faithful member until I discovered that local church leadership reflects a similar percentage of ignorant misogynists that are present in our general (U.S.) culture (it’s true: otherwise there would be no “feminist” entry still in the English dictionary). I expected an organization that honored men AND women: what I got was a shocking dose of reality.

  14. Angie says:

    So much pain. We are members of the church because we love Him, and He loves us. But we (the members of the church) are such jerks to each other. It’s human nature, herd mentality, groupthink, whatever we want to call it.

    My personal belief is that God knows you and has a work for you to perform. Perhaps God wants you to spend more time outside the church community. Maybe it could look something like this: you meekly attend your three hours of church every week, and then you go volunteer with another organization in your city.

    Perhaps God wants you to be an example of how to act when a person is attacked. Maybe one of your family members will in the future be persecuted at work for something, and they will need to cling to your example in order to keep the money coming in. I thought of this example, because what you have experienced at church is what I have experienced as a public school employee. And the financial impact on my family has been devastating. I wish I had the skill of responding constructively to institutional persecution – maybe we wouldn’t be so in debt from my inability to navigate the institution and keep a job.

    In other words, God is using you for something. He is trusting you to be His disciple, especially when you are persecuted in His name.

    I happen to agree with the person who said that she does not have a temple recommend right now. This takes all power away from the man-made parts of God’s church. She can attend church on Sundays, go to the activities, interact with the members, pray, read the scriptures, listen to the lessons. Maybe she is limited in her callings and public speaking and prayers, but who cares? There’s plenty of work to be done outside the church building. Bring the time and energy that would have been spent on a RS calling to the local library, homeless shelter, school, neighborhood, hospital, or those places where kids go when the state removes them from their families. Or feed and support the missionaries every week.

    Sorry to be giving only advice. Like I read in another comment “Advice not sought is advice for nought,” or something like that. But as I think about your situation, it seems like it’s actually a great opportunity. You are actually (temporarily?) freed from the confines of the church community!! Wow! A Mormon with a testimony and time on his/her hands can do a lot of good in the world!

  15. Mr. Jones says:

    You can solve this problem by ordaining women. A women in charge will make it all better.

    • I don’t think anyone said that having a woman in charge would make it all better. But I do think it is important that women like Jenny recognize problems, have good ideas to resolve those problems, and talent and will to do so, but are excluded from ever having an opportunity to implement any of their ideas just because of their sex. It is not who happens to be in charge at any given moment that matters. It matters that a whole demographic of people will never have opportunities to be in charge because of a caste system in which males are the upper (presiding) caste and women are permanently confined to the lower caste.

  16. C says:

    I question the remark of that they don’t know of instance of local abuses. If you have lived in many places, particularly abroad, it is not a secret that Church discipline cases are reversed. I personally know of stake presidents released prematurely for problems, bishops excommunicated, and mission presidents released early for problems. Its not a secret, just not advertised. Statistically its going to happen (Leadership Lottery). Realize human beings are involved. It doesn’t make the unpleasant facts any easier. Don’t place leadership on high pedestals, keep expectation low where people are concerned and place your faith upward towards heaven.

  17. Rod says:

    Like other similar narratives, this is a one sided story. We never hear the bishop or SP’s side which in some ways is too bad. Some cases are likely mishandled and some are probably the equivelant of “hands up, don’t shoot”if the evidence comes out. but since church discipline doesn’t let the evidence out all we have is your version based on your interpretation, context, feelings, and memory. Decisions can be appealed and accommodations can be made. My wife’s family got permission to participate at a different stake for over 20 years because problems they had with leadership.

  18. C says:

    If the abuse is coming from a stake or district president (mission president) and you don’t have an in with a general authority, it will be very difficult to find reconciliation. Lay members are strongly discouraged from bypassing their SP or MP for any reason. I saw many letters while serving in a stake presidency simply returned to the stake president with instructions to “help” the member who wrote it.

  19. MJ says:

    I just read this, and thank you for your post. Similar to what I experienced for other reasons. I so wish to enact change, to let women be heard. To have a line of communication that is ACCESSIBLE that allows us to let our grievances be heard.

  1. October 30, 2016

    […] Announcement from April Young Bennett (yes, that’s me) and Jenny‘s No Discipline Cases Elder Oaks?, both Jenny and I described our personal experiences with the church’s informal discipline […]

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