Since Kate Kelly’s excommunication was announced last Monday, the internet has been abuzz not only with the substance of Bishop Harrison’s letter excommunicating Kate Kelly, but also with the question of whether Kate Kelly has been completely forthright in her account of the circumstances leading up to her disciplinary council.
Specifically, the bishop’s letter mentions a meeting in December at which he and the stake president (Wheatley) talked with Kate Kelly about the “doctrine of the priesthood” and “urged her to dissociate yourself from Ordain Women and to cease your campaign to promote the ordination of women.”
There is a second set of contacts alleged in the same letter in March and April of 2014 in which Bishop Harrison alleges Stake President Wheatley “reminded” Kate Kelly of the “counsel given in December.”
Kate Kelly has adamantly denied these March and April “reminders” (not meetings) ever occurred. Inasmuch as Bishop Harrison has no personal knowledge of such “reminders” because they involved only Stake President Wheatley and Kate Kelly, his assertions are hearsay and not admissible to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
Until and unless President Wheatley comes forward with direct personal evidence of this allegation, Kate Kelly’s direct denial must rule the day.
The problem ends up being with the December 12, 2013 meeting.
Did Kate Kelly’s Bishop Never “Take the Time” to Ask Her Questions About Her Actions and Views?
You see, Kate Kelly acknowledges that the December meeting actually occurred. In fact, she blogged about it on December 30, 2013 at Feminist Mormon Housewives.
Here is what she wrote:
Recently I met with my stake president and my bishop at their request. They wanted to discuss my involvement with Ordain Women.
Kate Kelly also wrote of the meeting:
“Do we?” I thought as I met with my leaders. They seemed keenly invested in enquiring about my actions and views but seemed wholly uninterested in examining with a critical eye the system that puts them in a position of authority over me—over all women—because of a Y chromosome.
So we know that Kate Kelly acknowledged meeting in December of 2013 with both her stake president and her bishop; that they wanted to “discuss my involvement with Ordain Women,” and that “They seemed keenly invested in enquiring about my actions and views . . .”
But Kate Kelly appears to tell a different story on the first page of her June 21, 2014 letter to her bishop after receiving the summons for her church court:
I was in your ward for over three years and faithfully served in callings for that entire period. While we interacted frequently in passing, none of you know me well. I am saddened by the fact that you never took the time to ask me questions or get to know my heart while I was living in your ward. Despite the fact that I emailed you in March 2013, August 2013, October 2013 & again in April 2014 regarding my Ordain Women activities, you never bothered to respond or follow-up on my repeated invitation to engage in an open dialogue in person.
Though it pains me to say so, the claim by Kate Kelly in June of 2014 to her bishop that she was “saddened by the fact you never took the time to ask me questions” appears to be contradicted by what she herself wrote in December of 2013.
The Trib Talk Interview on June 12, 2014
Additional evidence of Kate Kelly’s possible disingenuousness in this regard crops up in the Trib Talk interview conducted with Kate Kelly and John Dehlin on June 12, 2014. Starting at 6:30 and going on to 8:08 in the interview, here is what Kate Kelly said:
Jennifer Napier-Pearce: Kate, what’s your take on the timing?
Kate Kelly: The timing for me is just a shock because my bishop who sent me the letter, you know, Ordain Women has existed for over a year. Even before Ordain Women launched, I emailed him and my stake president and my relief society president and said this is what I’m doing, this is what it’s called, um, and I said if you have any questions, please come to me first, let’s have a conversation about it; and he literally never approached me. Every Sunday week after week I saw him, I interacted with him, I had a calling, um, and he never called me, he never stopped by my house, he never pulled me aside on any Sunday, we never had; he personally never called me in to have a conversation about this.
And so the fact that it’s coming after I left; that they placed a move restriction on my records, um, is just extremely bizarre, and, um, makes me think that it probably wasn’t his choice, we had a good relationship, like I said, I saw him before I left, I gave him a hug, and that was it; so it’s just so suspect to me, but the process is so opaque that it’s very difficult for me at any point to confirm anything about where this is coming from; I have no say, I have no appeal; there’s no due process; and so I can’t confirm anything about where it’s coming from, but I think the timing and the manner in which they are doing it is very suspect.
Kate Kelly says the word “literally” very slowly for emphasis in the interview. She seems to want to make it clear that she never talked with her bishop about anything relating to Ordain Women; that he was simply not interested in any kind of a discussion with her regarding the issue. But it is this sentence from the above quote where it seems Kate Kelly gives herself away in the three words bolded below:
Every Sunday week after week I saw him, I interacted with him, I had a calling, um, and he never called me, he never stopped by my house, he never pulled me aside on any Sunday, we never had; he personally never called me in to have a conversation about this.
Listen to the interview. It seems that when Kate Kelly started to say “we never had,” she caught herself and changed her wording to “he personally never called me in to have a conversation about this.” This may be because Kate knew that if she said “we never had . . . a conversation about this,” as she was apparently beginning to say, she would be saying something that was not true, having in mind at least the 12/12/13 meeting with the bishop and the stake president. So Kate seems to have changed her wording in order to give the same impression without actually saying something untruthful.
Unfortunately, she was not so careful in her Feminist Mormon Housewives blog from December of 2012.
These circumstances are only highlighted by statements such as these from Kate Kelly last Tuesday: “I think I’ve acted with integrity at every step of the way and I’m proud of our group for continuing to ask hard questions.”
Or as she put it only yesterday, “I have acted with complete candor and integrity at every step of the way.”
The Effects of Kate Kelly’s Apparently Changing Story
If Kate Kelly did not actually lie about the issue, it is hard to say she wasn’t spinning things to the best of her ability. But just what was she spinning? I will speak only for myself.
My initial impression from listening to her Trib Talk interview and reading the letter she wrote to her bishop is that her bishop was a complete jerk in how he acted; that he never once talked to her about anything related to Ordain Women, even though Kate Kelly took every opportunity to keep him informed and up-to-speed on what she was doing.
After showing absolutely no interest in discussing Kate Kelly’s involvement with Ordain Women, and even parting with a hug when she moved from Virginia to Provo, her bishop inexplicably waited three weeks to send her an email summons to a disciplinary hearing.
“This is outrageous,” I thought at the time. “What kind of bishop would never talk to Kate Kelly about her activities and views while she was in his ward, even when given every opportunity, and then wait for three weeks after she moved from his ward to institute a disciplinary proceeding?”
Well, as it turns out, it would not be Kate Kelly’s bishop.
You see, Kate Kelly’s “spinning” of the issue had a specific effect on me, and as it turns out, it had the same effect on many others. It was to make it sound like she was being treated more unfairly than she was. It made it sound like she was more oppressed than she was. It made her sound like she was more a victim than she was.
And though I hate to say it, Kate Kelly appears willing to have thrown her bishop under the bus in order to accomplish her objective. In other words, this “spinning” didn’t just make Kate Kelly look “better,” it did so at the expense of making her bishop look “worse.” This strikes me as problematic.
Now, does this mean Kate Kelly was not treated unfairly? No.
Does this mean Kate Kelly was not oppressed? No.
Does this mean Kate Kelly is not a victim? No.
But it does suggest she was not quite so much as she led me to believe.
What About the Church’s Role In All This?
On the other hand, does this mean Kate Kelly’s goals are not laudatory? No.
Does this mean the LDS Church suddenly became less patriarchal? No.
Does this mean women are treated more equally in the LDS Church? No.
For the record, I do not like what the Church did to Kate Kelly, nor do I like how they did it.
I think the record demonstrates at a minimum that Kate Kelly was told by her male ecclesiastical leaders to sit down and shut up, and when she refused, her male ecclesiastical leaders excommunicated her . . . in absentia.
I also think the evidence is just as good, if not greater, that the Church spun the issues to make itself look better, and likely prevaricated in the process, as well.
I did not believe the Church when representatives of their PR Department said that the top leadership in Salt Lake City had nothing to do with Kate Kelly’s disciplinary proceeding; that it was a decision made exclusively by her local leadership.
After that was asserted, KUTV broke the story that Elder Ballard and Elder Clayton flew to Virginia recently to train stake presidents; the subject of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women was brought up; and Elder Clayton told the assembled stake presidents (presumably including President Wheatley) that anybody advocating the ordination of women was in a state of apostasy.
Shortly thereafter, Kate Kelly’s “informal probation” got upgraded to a church court at which she was ultimately excommunicated.
You do the math.
This also makes it seem less than coincidental that Kate Kelly received her summons within days of a similar summons being sent to John Dehlin.
Kate Kelly’s disciplinary court was more likely than not the direct result of interference and direction from top level church leaders, upon whose direction and/or suggestions Kate Kelly’s local leaders acted.
The LDS Church appears to have prevaricated about this. The LDS Church leadership was silent through the entire process, apparently content to allow their Public Affairs department to handle the situation by denying top leadership involvement while simultaneously directing the excommunication proceedings of Kate Kelly on the ground. If so, this is deplorable and inexcusable. But is this a case of whose “spinning” is worse than the other? Is this a case of fighting fire with fire? Is this a case of two wrongs making a right?
I have invested 36-years of my life in the LDS Church. I do not like it when I perceive the Church is being disingenuous with me.
I take it personally.
But I also have gone on record as supporting Kate Kelly. I have a profile up at Ordain Women. I wrote a letter to Bishop Harrison on Kate Kelly’s behalf to be used at her disciplinary council. So did my wife. I have publicly proclaimed my support of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women in my local congregation.
And I therefore do not like it when I perceive Kate Kelly is being disingenuous with me.
I take it personally.
The way I see it, Kate Kelly should have known this wasn’t just about her, but also about the thousands of people who support her and her goals. Kate Kelly owed it to her supporters to be absolutely candid about the events leading up to her excommunication. She owed the truth to those thousands of admirers and supporters who have put serious skin in the game and stuck their necks out for her as well as the cause she espouses.
To the extent that she did not do so, I feel let-down and disappointed.
I know it may sound like I am asking for a perfect messenger of a cause in which I believe.
I am not asking for perfection.