At Their Own Word: The Mormon Newsroom on Church Discipline

by: Andrew S

June 20, 2014

By this time, there have been tens, if not hundreds, of blog posts (are you aware all of those links were just from one blog, but the ones in these parentheticals are not?), podcasts (that’s a podcast for each letter, by the way), news articles, Facebook topics, and forum threads about the impending disciplinary councils of Kate Kelly (the founder of Ordain Women), and John Dehlin (the creator of Mormon Stories). So many writers, bloggers, and podcasters have given their thoughts on what they think has happened (and is happening), how they think the church should proceed, or even how they think John, Kate, or their supporters should proceed.

It seems like this is a topic that might be all talked out (P.S., I don’t know what the limit is for most links in a non-spam blog post, but I’m sure if I haven’t met it, I could find more articles to reach that threshold.)

However, one area that hasn’t received much attention is how the church is presenting itself. Because so many people assume that the Mormon Newsroom and its representatives are unauthoritative or simply not completely forthright, many have ignored their messages as being irrelevant (at best) to the conversation, or misleading (at worst) as to how the church is actually acting in these proceedings.

And that might be true. But let’s bracket that for a moment and ask: what if we took the Newsroom and Public Affairs Department at their own word? What would it say about the church’s institutional involvement in these proceedings?

LDS Newsroom Moroni

Piercing the Correlated Veil

Correlation is big on many internet Mormons’ minds. It is often seen as the big enemy of modern Mormonism, stifling the unique aspects of Mormonism while enshrining many of the cultural and doctrinal points with which progressive types struggle. And obviously, correlation is implicated as a prime suspect here — many people assume that the investigations of Kate and John (and others such as Rock Waterman) represent a coordinated effort, if not a wider-spread purge, from the top.

But what if we take the Newsroom at their word? From their narrative, not only are these actions not coordinated at a high level, but to the contrary, the disciplinary action must go through local channels. From the Newsroom’s response on discipline questions:

Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.

I can see why people might be skeptical of this idea. In online discussions, several have pointed to the 1993 September Six disciplinary councils as an example when Church headquarters clearly did coordinate behind the scenes. And yet, in an interview with Dan Wotherspoon, even Maxine Hanks offered that for the September Six, the process and final decisions were a local matter. Starting from around 7:12:

DAN: With Elder Oaks later admitting that Elder Packer did get involved with people like you and directing your stake presidents — not necessarily in “this is how the result has to be”, but at least in, “You should call these people in.” That was a precedent in instructing church leaders: “This is coming from you, but we strongly urge…”

MAXINE: Well, first of all, Dan, these are different contexts…completely different situations…it’s pretty hard to compare 1993 and 2014. There are a couple of little parallels, but the differences stack up so huge, I could spend an hour talking about the differences…

DAN: Well, we don’t have an hour, but I want some, because it doesn’t seem that different to me on the surface, so lay it out…what would be a few?

MAXINE: Well first, before I mention a couple of differences, I just want to say that even though in our case, we did hear secondhand in 1993 that investigations were initiated from high level, apostolic level — which the church has the right to do, to investigate the writings and activities of its members, and talk to them and find out where they are coming from, find out how they are feeling — even though it was initiated, the process and the actual interviewing and decisions were left to the local leaders. And I can absolutely say that was the case. In my case, I did not participate, I did not cooperate; I did not even want to attend the council…and actually, here’s a bit of evidence for the fact that back in 1993 each case was situational. Lynne Whitesides worked closely with her Bishop and her leaders, cooperated, collaborated, attended her council, and she was not ex’ed. I didn’t attend, Mike didn’t attend,  Lavina didn’t attend; we did not participate — we were all ex’ed…and I’m pretty confident that if I had gone in and participated, and really tried to work with them, I would not have been ex’ed. So there’s a difference between initiating a conversation and investigation vs. the actual process and decision where that takes place. So in 1993 as well as today, when the church says, “These activities are local,” they are honest; they’re accurate about that, because the process and decision-making happens on the local level.

Two Insights from Ally Isom

Doug Fabrizio and Ally Isom

In a RadioWest interview with Doug Fabrizio, the Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the LDS Church, Ally Isom said as much repeatedly. Below, I will provide several snippets from the hour-long interview, and then will provide my thoughts on two things that came out from the Public Affairs Department’s own narrative:

3:52: ALLY: “[Firstly], it is the desire of every church leader and member…our most heartfelt desire is for anyone who is working through personal challenges with their faith or questions through a disciplinary process that they turn to our Savior for answers and fully participate with us; we fully expect them to be part of the congregation and to remain in the Body of Christ….the second point is that this process is not expulsion…and in some ways, I hear the conversation framed as if excommunication is a foregone conclusion, when it is one of the options available to the local ecclesiastical leader, but it is at their discretion…”

5:19: ALLY: Discipline processes are not necessarily expulsions, not exclusions…rather it’s an inclusion…it’s meant to be a loving invitation to return to the Savior.

6:08: ALLY: Christ taught we need to be disciplined in thought, in word, in deed, and it’s how we fully engage as a true follower in the body of Christ.

6:23: ALLY: I have had personal accounts where they have shared with me how deeply profound this experience of discipline was…where they didn’t really understand what the Savior’s atonement meant to them or how to personally apply that redeeming and that enabling power in their lives until they personally experienced this.

7:22: DOUG: But why not just say they’re being punished for stepping over the line…going too far…you’re trying to correct their course…there’s nothing wrong with saying that, is there?

ALLY: No, not at all, and that is precisely what it’s meant to be…to correct their course so they can align with the Savior’s teachings.

8:25: DOUG: Is [going public] where members in general cross the line?

ALLY: Well, I can’t speculate as to what the conversations been between a specific church member and their ecclesiastical leader…that’s simply not my place and not my role…but where I can speak generally is in terms of apostasy, we define it as when our members turn away from the principles of the Gospel, or corrupt principles of the Gospel, or make unauthorized changes in Church organization or priesthood ordinances. It’s one thing to make one’s views known…it’s quite another to draw others away from clear doctrine…

15:35: ALLY: One cannot use a mortal lens to assert what is best…only God understands this; they are His designs, and the bottom line is we trust Him…we know that it is His Church and He is in charge and in His due time, He will determine the timing and the content of any revelatory change.

DOUG: *discusses Gordon B. Hinckley interview about agitation*

17:40: ALLY: Are we saying our way is better than God’s way?

20:38: DOUG: “Who’s directing all of this? The church statement is very clear…it says local leaders…

ALLY: The determination…is all made at the discretion of the local congregant leader…let me give you a little context…I’m not saying that there is no information provided from Church Headquarters…the information they receive is standard training as to process or how to conduct their stewardship…it is more a technical guidance….

24:46 ALLY: I’m not going to deny that we do these trainings…but we are leaving it up to the discretion of that leader to act in the Saviour’s behalf and to conduct themselves as prompted by the Spirit…there is in no way an implied *wink, wink*, “now’s the time to take action.”

25:43: DOUG: But the second question is…why not? Why wouldn’t church HQ want to have a say in a process that has the potential to affect the public image of the church?

ALLY: It comes back to the other question about priesthood and offices of the priesthood…it is very specific that it is within the purview of that Bishop or Stake President and ONLY their purview to be that judge in Israel and make that determination…it is their decision alone.

DOUG: If someone is excommunicated…that doesn’t have to be signed off on by HQ at church? That is completely within the stewardship and purview of local leadership?

ALLY: It is, and moreover, it’s in the  purview of the individual themselves…let’s be clear…the individual chooses how this process progresses…These people in any of these processes…they have choices…it is their choice to remain in the congregation, it is their choice to remain within the body of Christ, and it is their choice whether or not they listen to the promptings of the Spirit and align their behavior with the Savior’s will.

DOUG: But the choice then is to keep their mouths shut about this particular thing or stop being so public about this particular thing? They do have to make that choice–

ALLY: I can’t say that that’s the criteria…that’s between them and their bishop and God.

38:05: DOUG: So it was just the declarative “Ordain Women” that got Kate Kelly into trouble?

ALLY: You know, I’m not going to speculate where the line was…you seem to ask me repeated questions about “where is this line???” And I get it Doug…It is not for me to say. It is between Kate and her bishop and Heavenly Father…because I don’t know her heart, and her bishop knows better than anyone else; that is his stewardship.

38:56 DOUG: OK, so I’m not sure if you want to respond to the particulars of Elder Clayton’s reported comments that this is apostasy…but can you say that it is…associating with Ordain Women.com is apostasy?

ALLY: I’m not sure I can say that it is…it depends on where people are in their heart and what they’ve explicitly done.

DOUG: So for some it would be OK to go on that website and participate?

ALLY: What do you define as participation?

DOUG: Creating a profile…is that apostasy?

ALLY: You know what; I’m not really prepared to answer that question; it’s not my determination.

DOUG: Fine, but why then did Kate Kelly’s parents get their temple recommends removed for supporting their daughter and creating profiles on that website?

ALLY: You know, I can’t answer that question, because that’s between them and their bishops.

DOUG: So, there’s no…you can’t answer broadly…so, so…

ALLY: Isn’t that the beauty of all this…that there isn’t a general, broad brush…it’s individually applied.

DOUG: There is either a rule or there isn’t–

ALLY: –The Savior either knows you or he doesn’t.

Priesthood Roulette – Apostasy Edition

In the bloggernacle, there is a general understanding that despite correlation, one’s fulfillment or experience within one’s ward or stake can differ greatly depending on their fellow ward members, Bishop, or Stake President. This phenomenon, often called “Priesthood Roulette” or “Ecclesiastical Roulette” is beyond the control of any individual. Even when people might oppose the standardization that correlation aspires to, they may oppose the idea of priesthood roulette more strongly.

One thing that came out repeatedly in Ally’s comments is a sense that even something as critical as the definition of apostasy is up to such priesthood roulette. As much as Doug tried to press her, Ally refused at every point to specifically define apostasy beyond general terms, stating that the definitions depends on one’s bishop or stake president. Most intriguing was the summary at the 38:56 exchange…Doug is clearly exasperated that she can’t answer the question broadly, and Ally responds that of course she can’t — and that’s the beauty, that these general principles are applied individually.

Many folks online are frightened by the idea of an institutionally led crackdown on dissenters. But isn’t it more frightening that the crackdown is completely local and the institution chooses (and cannot choose otherwise) to do nothing about that?

Local Autonomy with Christ Metonymy

One of the biggest phrases of the interview was Ally Isom’s reference to “Ordain Women” as being a grammatical imperative. For non-language nerds, this might have seemed like a weird phrase, but for language-nerds, this was understood as a smart reference to the English imperative grammatical mood — what we most often use when we give (often implied) second-person commands like “Go to bed” or…infamously, “Ordain Women.”

Again, this grammatical turn of phrase has been discussed previously, so no need to rehash it. But to introduce my own linguistic term into the fray, the second thing that came out strongly to me from Isom’s comments was a Christ metonymy. Metonymy is a rhetorical comment in which a thing or concept is addressed by something associated with it. For example, when we say “Washington” as a reference for the actions of the United States government in general or “the White House” as a reference for the actions of the President more specifically.

One clear thing that comes from the conversation at several points is that Isom (and presumably the Newsroom) conceptually identify the church strongly with Christ.

While the ecclesiastical roulette-ization of apostasy is concerning, this Christ metonymy is even more concerning to me, because of the way that it forecloses certain options from the church in its own narrative.

For example, by emphasizing that apostates have strayed out of alignment not merely with the Church or with a local leader but with Christ himself forecloses the possibility that the church’s view and Christ’s view could differ. Repeatedly, Isom states that it is the individual’s choice to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and align their behavior with the Savior’s will, but with the metonymic framing, there is no room for the possibility that a person could have gotten themselves in the disciplinary situation by following what they believe are the promptings of the Spirit and aligning themselves with what they are prompted to believe is the Savior’s will.

However, more interesting about this rhetorical shift is that this rhetorical choice precludes the possibility that any church policy, doctrine, etc., could be wrong. It precludes the possibility — even if Isom can’t find a place where it says women *can’t* have the priesthood and she only has places where it positively defines priesthood offices being held by men — that the status quo is just a “policy” that may not align with Christ.

The cash value of this narrative framework is that it explains why the church says or does not say certain things about certain issues. For example, this rhetorical framework provides explanation into why we don’t see strong repudiations and apologies on the blacks and the priesthood issue. Even if the church says it was a “policy”, its rhetoric is that it and Christ are aligned. In summary, the church is constrained — it can’t then say, “This policy was out of alignment with Christ,” because that would shatter the entire narrative structure.

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33 Responses to At Their Own Word: The Mormon Newsroom on Church Discipline

  1. Nick Literski on June 20, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Here’s “priesthood roulette” for you: Kevin Kloosterman was bishop of his local ward in Sycamore, Illinois, when he began to speak out for better treatment of LGBT members within the LDS church and encourage marriage equality. The time came when was released from that calling, and a new bishop was called from within the ward. So far as I can tell from my contacts, that man’s name is Mark Malley.

    Now, in order for Mark Malley to be called as a new bishop, it’s reasonable to expect that he was “worthy” by LDS standards—including the expectation that he sustained his bishop, who at that time was Kevin Kloosterman. That’s right—he had to have been sustaining his LGBT-friendly, marriage equality encouraging bishop.

    Well, big surprise! As soon as Mark Malley got “a little power as he supposed,” what did he do? He yanked Kevin’s temple recommend for the grand crime of congratulating Utah’s first legally married same sex couple—-exactly the sort of behavior that Kevin had engaged in AS the ward’s bishop, back when Mark Malley was supposedly SUSTAINING him in his important leadership calling. How’s that for bizarre nonsense?

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  2. Kid Chameleon on June 20, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Great article Andrew. It has been interesting to note that the church response to this so far, and the response from members, seems to be putting more brush on the fire instead of extinguishing it.
    The majority of my Facebook feed is LDS, and since the initial incident I have seen a about 90% of comments being against Kelly and Dehlin. Most of the comments are very immature, with the clichéd “like it or leave it attitude”. With more and more people being called in for online comments, I wonder if Bishops are being affected by the media exposure and are prompted to take measures they wouldn’t have normally taken. Essentially they could be thinking that now more than ever if they don’t take action their ward is at risk.

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  3. Meg Stout on June 20, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    This was very interesting.

    The image of roulette is clearly very negative. I prefer to think of it like a wine tasting. While most Mormons don’t have much experience with wine tastings, I assert that even fewer have experience with roulette.

    In ecclesiastical wine tastings, there is supposed to be a similarity. And yet some are not much better than vinegar, while others are sublime. Every pressing is different, and each pressing will evolve over time.

    I used to ward hop a lot, which is why I came up with the wine tasting analogy. Not that I avoided my own ward, but for many years I would attend more than one congregation on a Sunday. It’s fascinating to see how different individual congregations are, which is ironically highlighted by correlation.

    As for the metonymy of equating the Church with the Body of Christ and continually stating that those out of alignment with Christ are being invited to return to Christ, there is an interesting two-way message there.

    For me, Ms. Isom is also sending a message to the various “judges” in this matter, likely reflecting the content of the trainings. She is reminding the judges that their role is to represent Christ. For some, they will feel they need to “clean the temple.” Others will feel the need to counsel with the metaphorical woman taken in adultery and ask her to go without punishment, merely reminding her to sin no more.

    The reminder to the judges is not just about the palette of acceptable responses, but a reminder that Christ will judge them for their judgement, and their lack of care if they do not invite the erring to return to the Savior.

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  4. Andrew S on June 20, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Nick,

    Yeah, that’s probably the most interesting thing about it — being a Bishop isn’t enough to protect someone because 1) there are still folks above the person (SP, etc.,), and 2) if one gets out of that position, things can turn south quickly.

    Kid Chameleon,

    One thing that is very interesting about the response from many conservative members is that they could benefit from listening to Isom/Public Affairs. For example, as you note, there’s a lot of folks who have more of a vindictive approach — “love it or leave it”. But the emphasis from the church is that discipline isn’t really about kicking people out. The hope is always that the person still participates.

    I’d actually be interested to see how many excommunicated people do continue to participate. I would imagine that the vast majority of excommunicated folks are never seen from again.

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  5. Andrew S on June 20, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    re 3

    Meg,

    Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the analogy. I think that there’s definitely something to be said about Isom’s message also being a message to the various judges. I think that’s why she emphasized so often, for example, that disciplinary proceedings are an inclusion, not meant as punishment, etc., As you noted, I get a sense from many people that they think, “If you don’t agree with the church, you should be kicked out.” But that is absolutely not what Isom conveyed — the ultimate priority is continued activity and participation. As you say, to invite the erring to return to the Savior.

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  6. Nick Literski on June 20, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    Meg, I’m SO glad that I gave up on LDS bishops and stake presidents, and took up wine tasting instead! ;-)

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  7. ji on June 20, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    Here’s something simple and beautiful — we teach correct principles, based largely on the scriptures and the present influence of the holy spirit, rather than trying to compile a set of statutes or regulations similar to a nation’s civil code — some here might be saying we should have statutes and regulations defining and governing and such in the church, but I’m not one of them. I prefer simpler, even if that means more variable. Let’s not turn the gospel into a legal code where we’ll need lawyers to argue and confuse and accuse and justify and so forth.

    Something else that is beautiful — our bishops and stake presidents are us, part of us, part of our local churches, selected from among us– they’re our neighbors — they have jobs and families and illnesses and troubles — they’re not officers of the general church, and they’re not canon law attorneys, thank goodness! We sustain them when called and every year they serve. So, I don’t like the roulette example either, but to whatever degree it applies, a member plays roulette with a bishop (or stake president) of his or her own choosing.

    So our judges in the church are our own neighbors, whose callings we sustained. There is beauty and safety in that.

    Given a choice to follow the example from the scriptures of the lawyers who sought to use their craft to destroy Jesus or publicans who choose to believe and sustain, I want to choose the latter.

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  8. Nate W. on June 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    ji, you really don’t see the difference between governing oneself based on correct principles and being a judge over others with no clear guidance or precedent? The latter is the very definition of arbitrary and capricious, especially since the disciplined party has no right to be heard on appeal.

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  9. forgetting on June 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    “One clear thing that comes from the conversation at several points is that Isom (and presumably the Newsroom) conceptually identify the church strongly with Christ.”

    … or to expand another metaphor recently used: Mother has started thinking that she is Father.

    I am not even sure that is what she (Isom,) the newsroom, or even the church leadership actually believe. I would like to think she is saying exactly what she means – Christ. Although, I hear the same language and these concepts in Sunday classes all the time, and even more so about church leadership being identified with, or as, christ. That others in our body believe and teach this is worriesome enough.

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  10. Mormon Heretic on June 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    I’m a bit torn on this. On the one hand, I think the Church Handbook can overprescribe policies that don’t apply. On the other hand, leadership roulette can happen. What one bishop views as apostasy, another bishop won’t. The lack of consistency can be a real problem. It’s also problematic that Isom couldn’t articulate a definition of apostasy. Nobody knows where the line is, so it is nearly impossible to know if one has crossed it, and each bishop seems to have a different definition. This is a problem.

    I’m also sad to hear that people on the OW website are now being called on the carpet for being part of an apostate group, but Isom wouldn’t actually say that OW is apostate. There’s some big inconsistencies going on here.

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  11. sw on June 20, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    ji, not everyone who plays priesthood roulette does it “of his or her own choosing.” Those experiencing divorce, victims of abuse or even those renewing their temple recommend in a new ward can feel the same concerns.

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  12. Howard on June 20, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Andrew I don’t want to derail this conversation, if you haven’t read this please take a look at it. I’m not a follower just happened across it today. The Facts

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  13. Parker on June 20, 2014 at 5:11 PM

    Ally Isom said: “The determination…is all made at the discretion of the local congregant leader.” And, “It comes back to the other question about priesthood and offices of the priesthood…it is very specific that it is within the purview of that Bishop or Stake President and ONLY their purview to be that judge in Israel and make that determination…it is their decision alone.”

    If local leaders are so infallible in their decisions regarding DC’s, why is there an appeal process?

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  14. ji on June 20, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    Nate W. — Yes, I would rather be judged based on correct principles as understood by neighbor who is my bishop for the time being than for the church to endeavor to create a code of statutes and regulations to cover every circumstance and every nuance and every exception — imagine the lawyers and attorneys who would have to get involved, and the hate and discontent that would be created — far better to let a good man do the best he can guided by correct principles and the spirit of inspiration. A decision based on correct principles and the spirit of inspiration doesn’t have to be arbitrary and capricious.

    I don’t want absolute consistency across the whole church in every matter. For example, I would support a U. S. bishop saying no to a clothing-optional same-sex sauna activity, and I would support a Finnish bishop saying yes to such an activity (because I give some leeway for local customs and traditions). I would support one bishop asking an organist to play a little softer, and another bishop asking the very same organist to add a little more expression.

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  15. Jeff Spector on June 20, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    I think the handbook is quite clear that a charge of apostasy requires a DC. And there is other instruction regarding gaining a following based on false doctrine or practice and affecting the testimony of others. While it may ultimately up to the Bishop/Stake President to the extent this has to occur and how purposeful the person has been in trying to achieve a following to their POV. Much hinges on their willingness to accept correction and change their ways. That is truly a local decision.

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  16. Howard on June 20, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    A church in fear of the truth because it isn’t as faith promoting as folklore propaganda!

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  17. Ziff on June 20, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    I really like your point about the Church being identified with Christ. I think this is absolutely spot on. Framing things that way makes it easier to demand exact obedience from members too. Then you’re not just going against Church leaders when you don’t follow; you’re going against Jesus.

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  18. Howard on June 20, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    Isn’t TSM Jesus’ stand in?

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  19. Casey on June 20, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Love the concept of metonymy here! I think that highlights one of the fundamental but often unstated disagreements between more and less orthodox members: more orthodox (or conservative or whatever label you like) tend to equate The Church=Church Leaders=Christ, at least in terms of authority or reflections of God’s will. Heterodox (or my preferred term for myself, “weirdo”) Mormons often reject that formulation, if only implicitly.

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  20. Howard on June 20, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    The reason church leaders =/= Christ is they don’t have a conversational relationship with him as Joseph did, instead they depend on a feeling of spiritual confirmation for Y/N type questions they ask Magic 8 Ball style just as a Deacon quorum President might but their stewardship is greater. The title Prophet, Seer and Revelator is honorary not descriptive. The orthodox belief is actually a false belief based on folklore.

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  21. ji on June 20, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    I’m very comfortable identifying the church with Christ.

    The church does not demand exact obedience from members.

    There’s an interesting notion offered in D&C 84 — to receive the Father, one must first receive the Son — and he who won’t receive the Son cannot receive the Father. And, to receive the Son, one must receive those He has sent — we usually think of those He has sent as the church and its priesthood. In this light based on this scripture and elsewhere, yes, there is a doctrinal basis for identifying the church with Christ, and identifying Christ with the church — and there is a basis for seeing the church and its priesthood as something worthy of respect. Christ is perfect, the church is human, but Christ still claims the church as His.

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  22. hawkgrrrl on June 20, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I really like the idea of one’s local congregation being the norm and judge vs. some remote headquarters that may be misunderstood or may misunderstand. In my own experience, I would say my local bishops are more comprehensible to me as my neighbors and people I see weekly. That’s not to say I agree 100% with each of them, but insofar as they are capable, they would probably give me a fairer listening than someone wholly unknown to me.

    In Kate’s case, what is disturbing is that there is no clear definition of apostasy, and she apprised her bishop prior to every action OW took, yet he did not intervene until she was moving. Now he’s held her records to try her in absentia when she is no longer in his ward. That just doesn’t feel right to me.

    The metynomy of the church = Christ is also disturbing to me. It makes Christ not a real, unique individual, but sort of a mish-mosh of collective human will and imagined unity. We know the church errs at times. It’s evident. Different leaders have different opinions. How can the church, which has many viewpoints, therefore be the viewpoint of Christ? I have always thought that we strive to understand Christ and to do as he would do, but that we all fall short, and that includes the church individually and yes, even collectively. We’re not perfect. So that’s an incredibly disturbing conflation.

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  23. Hedgehog on June 20, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    With hawkgrrrl on pretty much all of that statement.

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  24. ji on June 21, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    I do identify the church with Christ and Christ with the church, but I stop short of saying Christ = church. But for me, the church is Christ’s, and he sustains it. The church seeks to lead people to Christ.

    Regarding differences among members, I just read an old sermon posted at http://history.lds.org/article/lost-sermons-milo-andrus-first-vision?lang=eng. An excerpt:

    When we take up the history of [the] prophets and read them as we have them on record, we find a diversity of style in reason [and] of precepts to present the same things before the people. When we take up the history of [the] apostles, we find the same thing. But when[ever] they got to [a] conclusion upon the matter, it is all the same. Hence our Father in Heaven has left us free upon this subject, that every man [may] apply the same reason, adapted to himself. Hence, brethren and sisters, I have a style peculiar to myself [through] the Holy Spirit of inspiration that gave it [to] me.

    Consequently, it is sometimes remarked by those that instruct us [that] from time to time[they] take their own course. Today [we] say [they] apply their style of reasoning, adapted to themselves. Yet it is not our own, [but] given of the Lord. Hence it is that [though] a certain number of men possess [the] same keys in priesthood [and] travel in [the] same channel, one [will] captivate one set of people by his argument, another [will reach] another and it will have powers upon their understanding.

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  25. Howard on June 21, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Nice comment #24 Ji

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  26. New Iconoclast on June 21, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Meg Stout (#3) says,

    For me, Ms. Isom is also sending a message to the various “judges” in this matter, likely reflecting the content of the trainings. She is reminding the judges that their role is to represent Christ. For some, they will feel they need to “clean the temple.” Others will feel the need to counsel with the metaphorical woman taken in adultery and ask her to go without punishment, merely reminding her to sin no more.

    That sums it up nicely, in my view. Andrew, you’ve managed to take Sister Isom’s perfectly clear and well-framed comments, in which she clearly explains how things are supposed to work and how they are not controlled by the sinister cabal in SLC, and turn it around into a way in which everything is controlled by the sinister cabal in SLC, which equates itself with Christ and establishes a rhetorical framework which “precludes the possibility that any church policy, doctrine, etc., could be wrong.” You’ve put them in a great Catch-22. If the leaders lead, they’re trying to dictate local events. If they aren’t dictating local events directly, they’re still doing it by means of their sinister “rhetorical framework.” They can’t win for losing.

    Good heavens, man, cut them some slack. (As my grandma used to say, “Some people can find a turd in a scoop of ice cream.”) You yourself cited the evidence that even in the case of the September Six, the control was local. People are so busy feeling strongly about this whole thing that facts have become irrelevant, to say nothing of the role of God in guiding local church leaders. It isn’t all a plot, and the deck isn’t necessarily stacked. Let’s just let it play out.

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  27. Howard on June 21, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    NI,
    Your naivete is showing.

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  28. Andrew S on June 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    New Iconoclast,

    I don’t see how my post is turning things around to a “sinister cabal in SLC.”

    To the contrary, my two points are as follows :

    1) What many people online see as an all encompassing correlation is not so all encompassing. In other words, apostasy and decisions about apostasy are absolutely not determined at a high level and consequently, Isom can’t even specifically define apostasy – because the details can only be decided by the local leader.

    2) the church’s identification with Christ is not a sinister cabal. It is to be expected for a church that claims to be the one true church with authorization from Christ and with the one true priesthood. But this metonymy does limit the options as to what the church can and can’t say. It can’t say it was wrong on some policy or doctrinal point, even if it receives further revelation or changes policy.

    Not sure where you’re getting your interpretation from.

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  29. tomirvine999 on June 22, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Here is what happens according to some anecdotal accounts.

    A GA or SCMC official identifies a member who needs discipline for “apostasy.” The local SP is alerted.

    If the SP is lenient, he might receive “training” until he reaches the predetermined decision.

    If the SP continues to be lenient, a strict SP is called in his place to make sure the “apostate” is disciplined.

    In this way, the LDS Church PR department can still claim the disciplinary action was still made by the “local leader.”

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  30. […] the bomb dropped, the whole excommunication thing has gone into the discussion phase — and (as Andrew S noted) everybody has something to say about it!!! Even this week’s Old Testament lesson has some […]

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  31. Ken on June 22, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    The interesting thing is Doug Fabrizio is doing the interview. He is a former member and knows the excommunication process; and is trying to trap this good woman, like the lawyers tried to do with the savior.

    I have known Doug and his family my whole life. It is no surprise he would question her the way he did.

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  32. […] about tone here? Ally Isom and the Church Public Affairs department have a real problem with improper tone. Is it the nature of the questions? Can I not talk about controversial topics, topics that […]

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  33. […] 17, 2014 Radio West Interview of Ally Isom: http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/latter-day-saints-and-excommunication-part-ii (partially summarized […]

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