Saturday , June 28, 2014 - 12:06 PM
SALT LAKE CITY -- In the wake of the controversial excommunication of the leader of the Ordain Women group, the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday issued a statement condemning the teaching of false doctrine.
The church’s First Presidency said Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said LDS members are “always free to ask ... questions” about doctrine, history or practice. “We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them. Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.
The description of activity constituting apostasy in the eyes of the church may apply to the case of Kate Kelly. who was notified recently by her former church leaders in Virginia that she had been excommunicated.
She did not attend the disciplinary hearing but instead held a vigil in Salt Lake City with about 200 supporters.
As the leader of Ordain Women, Kelly was accused of apostasy, which is repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings. Mormon officials aren’t discussing Kelly’s case, but say that disciplinary hearings are held when members’ actions contradict church doctrine and lead others astray.
“I’m overwhelmed by the positive support, and I think it really demonstrates that this isn’t just happening to one person,” Kelly said in an Associated Press story before the vigil started. “This isn’t just happening to me, but it feels like the entire Mormon feminist community is being put on trial.”
Kelly, an international human rights lawyer, said she stands behind everything she has done since forming Ordain Women in 2013. The group advocates for gender equality in the faith, with the ultimate goal of allowing women in the lay clergy. Kelly insists that she has not spoken out against church leaders or church doctrine.
Women can hold many leadership positions in church, but aren’t allowed to be bishops of congregations or presidents of stakes.
The church says only men serve in the lay clergy as prescribed in “the pattern set by the Savior when it comes to priesthood ordination.”
Kelly’s group drew rebukes from church leaders in April when they marched on church property in downtown Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. The women asked to be allowed in a meeting reserved for members of the priesthood, which includes most males in the church who are 12 and older. Church leaders had previously told the group they wouldn’t be let in and warned them not to disturb the faith’s biannual general conference that weekend.
Saturday’s church statement in full:
“In God's plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.
”We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.
“Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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