Sunday in Outer Blogness: Excommunication!!!!!!1!

The question on everyone’s mind this week: “Has the CoCJoL-dS finally, truly jumped the shark? Even God is displeased.

You’re probably aware by now that excommunication proceedings have begun for Kate Kelly — the woman who had the audacity to prove the prophets embarrassingly wrong about womens’ alleged lack of leadership skills — and against Internet Mormon extraordinaire John Dehlin. Oh, and they threw in Alan Rock Waterman for good measure. You might be tempted to joke that Nobody expects the Mormon Inquisition!! If only that were true! But, sadly, it was only too expected, and plenty of us have experienced a “court of love”.

Apparently they’ve decided that anyone who can hold in their head the idea that the church may be wrong about something is expendable — and really is better off being shown to the door. Just from a purely Machiavellian perspective, this is a pretty dumb move:

Only a small percentage of members, mostly the Church fanatics of group 5, will see this as a good thing. By far, most members (the 60% whom are already disaffected) will only move further away from the Church. By publicly declaring Kate, Rock, and John as “Heretics” the Church is essentially saying there is not room for independent thought or questioning. Keep in mind these three individuals were not “anti-Mormons”. They were all firm believers who simply had something relevant to inquire about and say (much like Joseph Smith did in his time).

Also, I didn’t include the largest group of people the Church is trying to win over – Nonmembers. These people will most likely get a reinforced and misrepresented idea of how the Church is basically a cultish organization that exercises manipulation in order to maintain conformity of thought. Can you imagine being an investigator who is just learning that some members are now being excommunicated for publicly asking questions? How can this possibly leave a good impression among this group of people?

But the CoCJoL-dS is between a rock and a hard place. If they allow people who demonstrate real moral leadership to stay in the church, it becomes that much more glaringly obvious that the corporation has none to offer. Their business model relies on people not noticing that the arbitrary authoritarianism doesn’t work very well (trigger warning: if you went to girls’ camp, the banned song at the end of that last post will come back to you and get stuck in your head).

In a nutshell, the CoJCoL-dS is totally OK with you having your own ideas silently, in the privacy of your own head, but when you say them out loud, you run the risk of demonstrating — by contrast — that the CoJCoL-dS is unable to provide leadership, especially when it really matters:

Three LDS youth – Helmuth Huebener, Ruddi Wobbe, and Karl Schnibbe – believed that Church leaders who instructed them to be obedient citizens were wrong. The boys were troubled by the racist, authoritarian, and outright mean attitudes of not just the Nazi Party, but their own LDS church community, which they believed were behaving in un-Christlike ways. They secretly produced and distributed several anti-Nazi leaflets. They were caught, arrested, put on trial, and punished severely. Huebener, who the State considered to be the ringleader, was executed: beheaded by the Nazis at the age of seventeen. In between Huebener’s arrest and execution, his branch president obeyed Heber J. Grant’s instruction to be a loyal citizen, and he excommunicated Helmuth Huebener from the Church. Huebener was excommunicated because he defied the instructions of Church authority, and instead acted on his own conscience.

This move is going to convince a lot of people to leave the CoJCoL-dS, especially young women. One of the reasons people are leaving religion in general is the fact that organized religion is seen as hypocritical and judgemental.

Every time the CoJCoL-dS excommunicates someone, it forces LDS family members to choose sides. This new batch of high-profile excommunications will polarize Mormon wards, leading to mistrust and hostility among members as Kate Kelly becomes an object lesson on unquestioning obedience. And, sure, some members will side with the church no matter what:

When I told my wife that I didn’t agree with what the church is doing with John and Kate, she said: “Before you started to question the church, you would have felt the same way I do when you hear things like this.”

To my shame, I believe that would be true.

But the organization can’t survive on the fanatics alone, especially since the fanatics all have friends and family in the not-quite-fanatic (a.k.a. expendable) group that the CoJCoL-dS is hell-bent on driving away.

Many say that if you don’t agree 100%, then you shouldn’t care if you’re kicked out, but it’s not that simple:

Growing up in the church, it is your family. No matter how flawed, it is yours. You want to understand. You want to make things better. You want to stay. And if you’re pushed out, told you have no say, much like you had no say in being indoctrinated in the first place, that’s got to be crazy painful.

OTOH excommunication can be an opportunity for personal growth.

It is rather amazing that Kate Kelly could get excommunicated for the crime of asking for admittance to priesthood meeting (an action they did not intend to repeat next time), and asking the Brethren to open up a dialogue on women’s ordination. The message is that even asking about issues that concern you will be severely punished. It is chilling for many faithful members who sympathize. Some no longer feel welcome:

With all the recent new from the purchase of the SL Tribune to the legal case against that mormon dating site to the John and Kate excommunications, I have been getting weary.

I know John was vocal and had a large following but John is the guy who kept me in the church. If John could stay with his non-standard beliefs, so could I. Now it feels like I have no one who understands me inside the church anymore. I know there are tons of everyday members who feel similar to me but without a public figure, we will all feel alone. My testimony right now is only as strong as I feel happy to be part of the church and right now I am not happy, but fearful.

They talk about inclusion but the message feels like “conform or get out.”

For some, it’s the last straw.

One of the galling parts of this story is the leaders lying about it being entirely in the hands of the local leaders. And even if it were true, that would be worse! Let’s imagine for a second that excommunication actually were to affect your eternal future. Is it admirable to place this power in the hands of untrained (sometimes petty) authorities to be applied in a random and arbitrary manner? And don’t forget the extra sexist toppings!!

The next obvious question is why these three when there are so many others more deserving? Why not Cliven Bundy? Or for that matter, why not me or for the legions of others who are technically still members, but are far more apostate than the folks on the block today?

“Women in the church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme,” she told Ordain Women, saying that 1,300 women who signed the OW petition were not significant in a worldwide church of 15 million members.

Well, if you’re going to count them, maybe it’s time to count me.

Because here’s the thing. When the Church says that it has 15,000,000 members, they are counting me, and lots of women like me. They’ve never formally kicked me out, at least not to my knowledge, though I’m WAY more apostate than Kate Kelley or John Dehlin.

But, of course, people like me (who admit to being atheists) are no threat since the faithful already know not to listen to us. That’s apparently the key to who gets X’d and who they don’t bother to X. (That and, perhaps being an outspoken racist inciting insurrection against the government is not nearly as antithetical to being a faithful Mormon as a belief in women’s leadership abilities is.)

It’s especially cruel, though, because loads of people like me (who don’t believe in or care about the eternal consequences of excommunication) are left alone while the “blessings” of church ordinances are stripped from exactly those people think they’re essential.

*sigh* What a week!!!

If you’re more a podcast person, you are in luck! There are three parts from Mormon Matters and a whole series of panels from Sunstone, plus a little something from Infants on Thrones. Also videos of John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, and others.

And if you don’t have time to read or listen to all that, check out the hilarious commentary in images! On that note, who’s the better artist — George W. Bush or Boyd K. Packer?

In other random church watch, more details on the CoJCoL-dS trying to copyright the word “Mormon,” plus the continuing modesty debate. Oh, and the latest shooter was a Mormon out to kill sinners.

Plus a few dad posts in honor of Father’s Day — which is sometime this month (depending on what country you live in).

And hang in there!!!


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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10 Responses

  1. Donna Banta says:

    Wow! You knocked it out of the park this week, chanson, as did many of the bloggers you linked to. So many good points. Why indeed do the Brethren let local officials have the final say over a members’ eternal salvation? Also why Kate Kelly but not Cliven Bundy? Very well done.

  2. chanson says:

    @1 Thanks!!

    These sorts of weeks make this hobby really interesting. There’s just so much to say about what’s going on — and so many people have come up with fantastic insights about it!

    There are actually a couple of more points I wanted to expand on, but it was already so long… 😉

  3. Parker says:

    I’m amazed that SLC is insisting that they have no input in discplinary hearings. I can’t imagine a SP not consulting with his area president regarding a high profile case. I alsc can’t imagine a GA saying, “Why ask me? Ask Jesus.”

  4. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    I would be real interested what a linguistic anthropologist would make of speech patterns in Mormondom, (as well as what is taboo).
    What seems to be imperative, is for those at the bottom to use the correct grammatical form when addressing their superiors.
    A common complaint among those TBM’s who rush to demonstrate loyalty to the Church leadership in various blog comments, is that OW didn’t show proper deference. But to to what??? The divine order of church hierarchy? Not enough groveling to sacred maleness?
    I need an anthropologist to help me out here.

  5. Parker says:

    The proper deference is: “Bow your head and say, ‘yes’.”

  6. For the absolute meaning behind excommunication – even though this isn’t how the Mormons do it – see Richard Burton’s portrayal of a Catholic Excommunication, in this scene from Becket.

  7. Holly says:

    It took me all week to read this week’s SiOB–it was just so overwhelming. You’ve got a great roundup of links, Chanson, and your commentary is really insightful. Thanks.

  8. kuri says:

    The film Becket also reminds us that a GA would not have to say “Excommunicate them!” to make his wishes clear.

  9. chanson says:

    @8 just in time for the next batch! 😀

    @7 and @9 I really need to see that film — everyone says it’s really good!

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