church of jesus christ of latter-day saints

Mormon Kate Kelly ‘Happier’ and ‘Invigorated’ After Excommunication

Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Kate Kelly. Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Nearly a year removed from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly says she has found happiness living a more authentic life while continuing to push for equality in the Mormon faith.

Kelly, who was excommunicated in June 2014, now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, where she works on human rights efforts. She was back in the United States briefly on April 23 as part of an offshoot project of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to explain how she was punished for speaking out for women’s rights in the LDS faith.

“The men who (excommunicated me) literally think they kicked me out of heaven,” Kelly said.

“Luckily, I do not think that. … Out of this experience, I’ve realized that men don’t get to control my happiness. I’ve come out on the other end, (where) I think I’m much happier, much more authentic, a much more invigorated person.”

Still, on stage at the Gotham Comedy Club, a space usually filled by raucous laughter, Kelly broke down in tears talking about her ouster from the LDS faith and the repercussions for herself and her family.

“It’s like an execution, a spiritual death,” Kelly said of Mormon excommunication.

“It’s very, very extreme.”

For their part, Kelly’s Mormon leaders have said the door always is open to her return.

Mormon Couple Doesn’t Want to be Part of Supreme Court Gay Marriage Case

Josh and Lolly Weed and their three daughters. Image via RNS/courtesy Josh Weed.

Josh and Lolly Weed and their three daughters. Image via RNS/courtesy Josh Weed.

A Mormon man and woman in a mixed-orientation marriage are objecting to their inclusion in a U.S. Supreme Court case filing because it argues that legalized gay marriage would demean marriages like theirs.

Josh and Lolly Weed’s names and statements are referenced in a “friend of the court” brief ahead of the April 28 arguments in a consolidated 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, which many expect will legalize gay marriage nationwide.

The brief was filed April 3 on behalf of couples in mixed-orientation marriages — unions in which one partner is gay and the other is not — who oppose marriage equality.

The Weeds told The Salt Lake Tribune on April 14 they didn’t consent to be included in the filing, nor do they share its view.

Among the filing’s arguments: Constitutionally mandated same-sex marriages can exist only by “erasing, marginalizing and demeaning the same-sex attracted who live in man-woman marriages” and would send a “harmful message that it is impossible, unnatural, and dangerous for the same-sex attracted to marry members of the opposite sex.”

“What does that have to do with us at all?” asked Josh Weed, an openly gay man who has been married to a woman for 12 years.

“I feel no devaluation of my marriage status by having marriage equality.”

The Weeds, of Washington state, became the public face of Mormon mixed-orientation marriage in 2012, when they posted their story on Josh’s blog, They do not advocate mixed-orientation marriages for others.

“My wife and I support marriage equality,” Josh Weed said.

The Truest GOP Believers? Mormons

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and conference goers sing in Salt Lake City, April 4

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and conference goers sing in Salt Lake City, April 4, 2015. Image via RNS/Reuters/George Frey.

Mormons lean more heavily toward the Republican Party than any other major demographic group — whether clustered by race, age, gender, educational attainment, or religion.

So says a study released April 7 by the Pew Research Center, based on more than 25,000 survey interviews conducted nationwide in 2014.

The survey shows that 70 percent of Mormons lean Republican, compared with just 22 percent who tilt Democratic. That 48-point gap is greater for the GOP than margins provided by any other single group.

Behind Mormons in GOP support are white evangelical Protestants, who give the party a 46-point edge; white Southerners, a 21-point GOP advantage; white men with some college education or less, also 21 points; whites, 9 points; and the “silent generation,” ages 69 to 86, 4 points.

Groups that lean Democratic most heavily are blacks, who give that party a 69-point edge; Asians, a 42-point margin; religiously unaffiliated, 36 points; post-graduate women, 35 points; Jews, 30 percent; Hispanics, 30 points; and the millennial generation, ages 18 to 33, 16 points.

“Obviously, Mormons are one of the strongest groups for Republicans, right on par with white evangelicals. Both groups are about three times as likely to lean towards the Republican Party,” Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of the Pew Research Center, said.

“That’s been the case for a long time.”

Small Band of Mormons Register Their Opposition to Church Leaders

Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints / RNS

President Thomas S. Monson (middle) at the 2011 general conference. Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints / RNS

For the first time in decades, a small band of Mormons who disagree with their church stood during the semi-annual General Conference on April 4 and publicly shouted “opposed” to sustaining the top Mormon leaders.

At least seven people rose in dissent as part of an action by a loosely organized group calling itself “Any Opposed?”

At the same time, thousands of Mormons gathered in the church’s Conference Center silently raised their hands to show their support for the governing First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which guide the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The opponents did not say more during the afternoon session, but one of those who stood, Don Braegger of American Fork, Utah, said the group has a variety of concerns, including the perception that LDS history is rife with disturbing episodes; that the faith does not treat LGBT persons fairly; and does not offer wide enough roles for women.

Unlike in the 1970s and ’80s, when opponents were removed from General Conference after voicing “no” votes, Saturday’s opponents remained for the rest of the afternoon meeting.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to President Thomas S. Monson, noted the contrary votes each time they were cast by replying, “The vote has been noted.”

Transgender Mormons Struggle to Feel at Home in Their Bodies and Their Religion

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Jim Urquhart / RNS

Reflection of Salt Lake temple. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Jim Urquhart / RNS

Sixteen-year-old Grayson Moore had no label, only metaphors, to describe the disconnect he felt between his body and soul.

It was like car sickness, he says, when your eyes and inner ears disagree about whether you are moving.

“It makes you sick,” Moore says.

“That’s the same with gender.”

When Moore’s mother gave her then-daughter a vocabulary for the feelings — “gender dysphoria,” or transgender — an immediate sense of relief followed.

And, he says, God confirmed that he was not just a tomboy. He was in the wrong body.

Such moments come in the lives of transgender people — times when vague feelings of general discomfort with their identity crystallize into that realization.

BYU Graduates Complain to Accrediting Board Over School’s Treatment of Lapsed-Mormon Students

Photo via REUTERS / George Frey / RNS

A student walks past the entrance of Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, UT. Photo via REUTERS / George Frey / RNS

A group of Brigham Young University graduates is strengthening its push for students who lose their Mormon faith to retain their spots at the private school.

Students do not have to be Mormon to attend the Provo university, but those who enter as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and later leave the faith face expulsion from BYU.

Activist group FreeBYU filed a complaint last week with the nonprofit accrediting board that evaluates the LDS church-owned school for the U.S. Department of Education. The filing alleges that the policy hinders academic and intellectual freedom at BYU, which is due for a seven-year accreditation review in April.

Organizer Brad Levin says many students who are “in the closet” about changing or leaving their faith must censor themselves in classrooms, online, and in the wider BYU community. Such students should receive the same religious protection as non-Mormons, FreeBYU contends.

“They don’t know what’s going to put them in hot water,” Levin said.

Mormons Free to Back Gay Marriage on Social Media, LDS Apostle Says

The Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Image via RNS.

The Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Image via RNS.

An LDS apostle reaffirmed recently that Mormons who support gay marriage are not in danger of losing their temple privileges or church memberships — even though the Utah-based faith opposes the practice.

In an interview March 13 with KUTV in Salt Lake City, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that individuals in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be in trouble only for “supporting organizations that promote opposition or positions in opposition to the church’s.”

Backing marriage equality on social media sites, including on Facebook or Twitter, “is not an organized effort to attack our effort, or our functioning as a church,” Christofferson said in the interview.

The KUTV interviewer asked further if a Latter-day Saint could “hold those beliefs even though they are different from what you teach at the pulpit?”

Yes, the apostle answered.

“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”

Christofferson echoed this sentiment in two January interviews with The Salt Lake Tribune.

Mormon Feminists Seeking Change Find It in Subtle Wording

Uchtdorf referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents." Photo via Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints/RNS.

Mormon feminists may have been surprised by some subtle changes in vocabulary and approach Sept. 27 at the church’s general women’s meeting.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the audience — sitting in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching via satellite in chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe — not just as “sisters” but also as “blessed disciples of Jesus Christ.”

In a speech about living out one’s faith joyfully, Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents,” alluding to the Mormon belief in male and female deities.

And, for the first time, the charismatic German leader described the meeting as the opening session of the church’s 184th Semiannual General Conference. Until now, General Conference has referred only to the two-day gatherings held during the first weekends of April and October, with the women’s meeting seen as a separate event.

Saturday night’s meeting also featured the first-ever prayer at a session of General Conference by a black woman, offered by South African Dorah Mkhabela, a member of the LDS Young Women’s General Board.

Rare Mormon Documents Go On Display for First Time

The first edition of the Book of Mormon, printed in 1830, on display in Missouri

The first edition of the Book of Mormon, printed in 1830, on display in Missouri. Image courtesy Sally Morrow/RNS.

For the first time ever, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has assembled some of its most treasured historical documents into a single exhibit and is inviting the public to view them.

Starting on September 4, 26 books, manuscripts and other papers that date from before the faith’s founding in 1830—including a manuscript page from the original Book of Mormon, a first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and the handwritten minutes from the 1842 founding of the women’s Relief Society—will be on display at the LDS Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City.

These artifacts go “to the roots of our foundational faith,” LDS Church Historian and Recorder Steven E. Snow said at a news conference Wednesday. “These four cases hold our most precious documents.”

Taken together, the documents are worth several million dollars, Snow said, so church officials waited to showcase them until their safety could be secured.

“This exhibit is not intended to silence critics” of Mormon history, Snow said. “But members will find it faith-promoting.”

Excommunicated Mormon Kate Kelly: 'I've Done Nothing Wrong and Have Nothing to Repent'

Kate Kelly, a founder of Ordain Women, was excommunicated by the Mormon Church. Creative Commons image: Katrina Barker Anderson

Women’s ordination advocate Kate Kelly said it’s unlikely she will seek rebaptism anytime soon into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which excommunicated her Monday.

“I’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to repent,” Kelly said in an interview. “Once the church changes to be a more inclusive place and once women are ordained, that’s a place I’d feel welcome.”

The decision by a Mormon bishop’s council in Virginia to excommunicate her for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church” stunned Kelly, she said.

The word “apostasy” does not appear in the letter her Vienna Ward bishop, Mark Harrison, emailed to her, although it was the charge lodged against Kelly when he called for Sunday’s disciplinary council.

“I honestly thought until the very last minute that they would do the right thing,” the Ordain Women founder said Monday evening.