“Ask and Ye Shall Receive” DOES NOT Mean “Ask and Ye Shall be Excommunicated”


Earlier this week, I watched a news segment about the latest excommunication discussions occurring between LDS Church PR and local news organizations. It’s been pretty overwhelming and crazy, guys, even for someone who knows what’s going on from the inside. I’m sure it’s been that way for you, too. But anyway, in this news segment, sitting at a small table with a 2News reporter, was Kate Kelly, Ordain Women founder and the center of what has snowballed into a PR crisis. For the past year, Kate Kelly has fascinated me, angered me, and bewildered me. I’ve wanted to know who she is and what makes her tick. I noticed that her mouth was drawn in a serious line beneath serious eyes that sat unblinkingly behind thick, transparent glasses, hair drawn back, body bent over, attentive. She was dressed in a cheery floral blouse, letters used as props scattered around the sleeve that rested on the table. Her face flashed between disciplinary letter montages, words like ‘excommunication’ scrolling across the screen. Then, in what may well be the saddest and most misled resignation I have ever seen, she said, “If I’m guilty of apostasy, any person who has ever had a question and asked that question out loud is guilty of apostasy.”

I felt my jaw drop when I heard this.

That one line and the lie it propagates slapped the face of all of the assumptions and all of the doubts I’ve had to battle with for the past week. That one line has managed to weasel its way into discussions all over the Internet as if it is doctrine, when it is not. You’ve heard what people are saying — if there’s no room for Kate, there’s no room for me; if Kate can’t ask questions, then how can I; if they don’t want Kate, then they can’t want me; the church is just afraid of hard questions, etc. — and the worst of the matter is that I see it hardening my friends and their testimonies. They feel like their questions are too hard, unwanted, and that, because they have these questions, they don’t belong in the church. There is no room for them, essentially. It’s been difficult and heartbreaking to hear so many friends express their doubts, cling to their doubts, and then use those doubts as weapons against my testimony and the testimonies of their friends. The hardest battle I have to fight anymore is the battle against my member friends, and it kills me.

Which is why I’m here to say, as kindly but as firmly as I can, that Kate Kelly is not being disciplined for asking questions, her statements are not correct, and don’t you dare stop asking questions or leave the church because of the things she is claiming right now. 

When Kelly said any member asking questions out loud is guilty of apostasy, I immediately pictured a young Joseph Smith walking into the Sacred Grove, concerned, bothered, wanting an answer because he couldn’t make sense of his surroundings. I pictured him coming to his knees in seclusion, begging Heavenly Father for an answer, being overwhelmed by darkness and chaos until the beautiful, incomprehensible light of Jesus Christ and the Lord cut through the blackness and the breaks in the branches above him. His prayer was answered in the most magnificent way we can imagine, but the point is, it was answered, and had he not asked his questions out loud, we would not have the Gospel as we know it today.

Realize, for a moment, that he was 14-years-old. FOURTEEN. As he has said, if even he could ask the Lord a question, then why not us? Why not you or I? In Joseph’s day, asking questions of the Lord was considered blasphemous by many pastors and denominations. Realize that that is not the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and never has been. To me, the fact that the humble plea of a young boy led to the restoration of Christ’s church is a loud and clear message from the Lord that He loves our questions and we need to keep asking them.

Right now, there are quite a few members who are struggling. You might be one of them. The news, as it always has, is making us Mormons out to be deluded, sexist freaks who suppress our women and kick out our brothers and sisters as a way to punish them rather than a way to help them. In anti and ex-Mormon circles, we are commonly referred to as “Totally Brainwashed Mormons,” or TBMs, because, to some, the realities and rewards of faith don’t seem to exist. Even in member circles, we’re seeing a huge influx of Mormon bashing, saints who use their doubts as knives to tear apart the faith and testimonies of their brothers and sisters. The thing is that these doubts are fueled by messages from the media, the Internet, and regular people, three sources, I might add, that have consistently been proven wrong. On the subject of Kelly and blogger John Dehlin, it’s ironic and painful that they, individuals who have had their own struggles and questions, are instilling so many doubts in the minds of their brothers and sisters, and not only that, but dissuading them from asking the necessary questions to still those doubts by using fear tactics and claiming that church leadership doesn’t want to hear our questions. Well, guess what. We don’t pray to church leadership. We pray to the Lord. And for the very servants the Lord has asked to lead this church, those who rely on questions and revelation the very most, to deny you or I that same ability would be preposterous, impossible, and completely contrary to the entire foundation, premise, and doctrine of this church.

Consider this: the doctrine of families, the organization of the Relief Society, the lowering of the missionary age, and countless other examples of revealed truths didn’t just come because everybody was sitting around. They came from hard questions, questions from members and prophets alike. I’m sure that at the founding of the church,  many wondered how they could enjoy the Gospel of Jesus Christ when so many of their family members passed on without it. Thus came the revelation and restoration of proxy temple work. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered why women couldn’t serve at a younger age when the young men could. Thus came the revelation of the lowered missionary age, and the reason I know why President Monson is a true prophet who speaks with the Lord is because of how I felt and consistently feel when I watch clips of that announcement. The Lord, through His prophets, addressed my concerns. Sometimes I don’t see Him addressing my concerns in my own life because I don’t look hard enough, but when a Prophet addresses my concerns, I know that the Lord respects and answers my questions. 

Today, a lot of women and men have asked the Lord hard questions about the importance/visibility of women in the church. If you don’t think the increasingly visible role of auxiliary leaders, the Conference prayers, the creation of a meeting that happens semi-annually now for all women in the church, and etc. are answers to those prayers, then you probably don’t recognize how much the Lord values your concerns. His doctrine cannot change, but church operation? Church tradition? Sure they can. 

Sometimes, we as members are afraid of questions, because man cannot know all of the mysteries of God, and we feel like we should be able to know them. Which is why false doctrine exists — it comes from an attempt to guess at what the Lord means or assume to know what He means. Sometimes we shy away from hard questions, and yeah, maybe in our wards we’re vastly unequipped to answer the hard questions our brothers and sisters have. The point is that we are NEVER in the wrong for having them.

The problem, too often, is not that we ask questions, but that we’re really bad at asking them. We ignore scriptural patterns and expect answers. Sometimes, we don’t even ask the Lord questions and we expect answers. The best example I have to give is found in Alma 31, when Alma goes to teach the Zoramites. Recognize who had questions and who didn’t. Do you remember how the Zoramites “prayed” to the Lord? They did so publicly, they did so exclusively, and they did so loudly. They didn’t ask about the Lord’s identity, but told the Lord that they knew everything about Him. They assumed to be separate from their brothers and sisters. They didn’t ask one darn question of Him, and if they had questions, they likely wouldn’t have given Him the time of day or attention to answer them, anyway. Immediately afterward, we see Alma asking rapid-fire questions of the Lord, like how He could allow such wickedness, how long He would allow it to exist, and if He would comfort Alma and his brothers in their afflictions. Alma’s prayer was deeply humble and pointed, concerned with everybody else but himself, and what follows are the most beautiful scriptures about having faith in the Lord and faith that He answers prayers. If you don’t think the Lord has a distinct pattern for prayer, read the contrast between Alma’s prayer and the Zoramite prayer really closely and recognize which prayer got a response. Think about what type of prayer you’re saying, and you might realize why the answers are hard to come by.

If your testimony is struggling right now, you cannot, like the Zoramites, rely on assumptions. You also can’t rely on other people alone to help you, nor is it fair or right for you to turn your doubts into weapons against your friends’ testimonies. Just 
stop that. I’ve learned that in those moments when my testimony feels weak, I ask the most humble and heartfelt questions of the Lord, knowing that the only answers I can receive come from Him and His words. I’m not going to get those answers by asking my hard questions over Facebook, nor are you, I’d imagine. I’m also not going to get those answers by assuming to know what the Lord is doing. The Lord answers questions, not assumptions. I’m not one to say that we should stop discussing things, because discussion can do so much good and give us some kind of footing. Just remember that the Lord’s the one with all of the answers, and He’s not often going to make it easy for you to get them. You have to work for them and prove you want them. 

The point is: do not be persuaded that if you have questions, you can’t ask them or there’s no room for you, because you will lose your testimony if you do not seek those answers from Heavenly Father. 
Stop proclaiming your doubts to the world, and instead, find your Sacred Grove and bring them up with Heavenly Father. Don’t just make assumptions or demands, either. Ask. Study. Ponder. Pray. Do so with the desire to know and the humility needed to accept the answer you receive.

“Ask and ye shall receive” DOES NOT mean “ask and ye shall be excommunicated” or “ask and ye shall be found guilty of apostasy.” Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Side note: Realize that human beings are extremely biased. Don’t let your conviction fail because someone else’s bias sounds like truth. That includes my own. Go find the answers for yourself. You know how to do it. 

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  1. This is one of the most solid pieces of literature I have read concerning this topic. It's cogent, thoughtful, seasoned with love, and I think, driven by inspiration from the Lord. Thanks for sharing.

  2. "His doctrine cannot change…"

    What's the latest on plural marriage? Is it still the only way into heaven? If not, then LDS doctrine DOES change :)

  3. It's a "yes" or "no" question. But, by all means, let's hear it! Also, are black people still the seed of Cain and kept from the temples? Because, despite what the LDS Newsroom says, it WAS doctrine until 1978 😉

    Maybe you should edit your statement to "His doctrine cannot change (most of the time)"

  4. Tell ya what bubbles; did the Lord change his doctrine about marrying in the faith? What about dietary laws like pork and shellfish? Or circumcision? Or what about only Levite's officiating in the Holy of Holies? Did those change the doctrine? Unless of course you reject the new testament as authoritative and of no efficacy then what bush are you attempting to dance around?

  5. Anon – Thanks for continuing to prove my point! The Mormon/Christian God is ever changing!

  6. God is at liberty to revoke commandments and give them.

    As for polygamy, I don't know exactly why it was instated, but whenever we asked a group of missionaries if we had polygamous ancestors, half of us raised our hands (myself included). I can easily see that if polygamy was not instated, the Church would be significantly smaller in terms of faithful converts and members born into the Church. Also know that polygamy was not illegal until the saints had started practicing it (there were a few extremely anti-Mormon senators in office at the time that specifically targeted the LDS Church using the law). God didn't need to boost the numbers forever and the rest of the U.S. kept trying to persecute the saints for the practice. God didn't want the Church to be destroyed (that would be counter-productive to the whole Restoration of said Church) so He said that we do not need to continue that practice.

    As for blacks, perhaps Brigham Young was inspired when he said that black men could no longer hold the Priesthood. As far as I have learned, the LDS Church was the first U.S. church with mixed race congregation (blacks and whites together), even though blacks could not hold the Priesthood until 1978. Perhaps the wait was to protect the LDS Church and blacks alike in an age where the KKK burned crosses on people's porches. Civils Rights movement comes, great. Not everyone is ready yet for the blacks receiving the Priesthood (at the time that the blacks did receive the Priesthood, there were still leaders/members that left the Church).

    If God is changing, so what? He isn't changing the fundamental rules of the game (have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end) but He is changing the commandments that He gives to us in order for us to be obedient and stand against the world (for this epoch, Levites can hold the Priesthood and stay away from pigs and shellfish. In this other epoch, all men can hold the Priesthood but stay away from wine and beer). The dangers of the world are ever changing, it is absurd to think that God cannot give laws to man in accordance to their time.

    If the verse you are referring to that says that polygamy is the only way into heaven is D+C 132:4 (For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.) then you ahve been mistaken. The entire chapter is about the temple sealing, at the very end it talks about polygamy. It is not the covenant of polygamy that is required of man but the covenant of being sealed together for eternity, which makes sense when saying that we need both a male and a female to be exalted, etc.

  7. We should just be friends :) I love the beauty you create with your words and a straightforward testimony. And I love that you share it.

  8. To add to Carson's comment about blacks and the priesthood, the Lord always provides us with information when we humble ourselves and are willing to act upon it. This is purely my personal opinion, but I believe that the whole situation came about simply because the majority of members of the church were not ready to live the higher laws of the gospel because of their incorrect prejudices, much like the Israelites lived with the Mosaic law for hundreds of years until Christ came and provided a "new" commandment. And you want to talk about what felt like an overhaul of the church, look at all the changes that came during the time of Christ! The gospel may be perfect and unchanging, but the members of the Church are not, and we are given "line upon line" as we grow and learn to humble ourselves and accept the will of the Lord.

  9. I've read your blog a few times when my friend Keenan has shared it on his Facebook page, but this is by far your best piece of work. Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts so clear and concisely.

  10. Carson – Studies have shown that polygamous marriages produce less offspring than monogamous marriages.
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/feb/27/mormon-polygamists-fruit-fly Namely – "But scientists have now uncovered an odd fact about 19th-century Mormons: the more women in a household, the lower the average birthrate. In other words, the more sister-wives a Mormon woman had, the fewer children she was likely to produce."

    You said – "lso know that polygamy was not illegal until the saints had started practicing it" This is incorrect. "The Mormon practice of plural marriage was officially introduced by Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, on July 12, 1843. As polygamy was illegal in the state of Illinois,[12] it was practiced privately." Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy_in_North_America#cite_note-12

    You said – "As for blacks, perhaps…" I'm not interested in 'perhaps'. I would like to see your source for your claim "the LDS Church was the first U.S. church with mixed race congregation" because from my searching, this seems to also be an incorrect statement. The KKK wasn't formed until 1865 – many years after the formation of the LDS church. Joseph Smith ordained at least one black men and Brigham Young stopped. Why? There is no record of any revelation to stop the ordination of black men.

    Levites were the only tribe that could hold the priesthood. That is correct. However, the other tribes weren't kept from spiritually important events because they didn't hold the priesthood. The other tribes could still offer burnt offerings. But pre 1978, people with african blood could NOT receive their endowments or be sealed as a family, thus denying them the highest blessings offered to LDS people. There is a big difference between the Old Testament situation and pre 1978. Besides…that was THOUSANDS of years with an ignorant, uncivilized tribe of people. Do you honestly want to point to them as justification for today's actions?

    As far as polygamy is concerned, I wasn't referring to D and C 132. I was talking about the prophets' words. Brigham Young taught polygamy was essential for salvation. Your attempt to dismiss 132 as to talking only about plural marriage at the end is also incorrect. In the early days, the "new and everlasting covenant" was code for plural marriage.

  11. Great point. The problem isn't questions or doubts or concerns or confusion or wanting change. The problem is apostasy, which the church defines as: "the repeated, clear and open public opposition to the Church, its leaders and its doctrine. If someone seeks to teach as doctrine something that is contrary to the Church’s beliefs, attempts to persuade other Church members to their point of view or publicly insists the Church change its doctrine to align with their personal views, they would be counseled by a local Church leader and asked to cease that practice. If they fail to do so, Church discipline may follow."

    Source: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-discipline

    There is a big difference between the two.

  12. Bubbles: you're right in that the laws of god are continuously changing, however there is a very big difference in GOD deciding when the people are ready for the upgraded/higher law and the opinion of the people deciding they want the laws to change to meet their own lifestyles/wants. The laws of God will never change due popular vote.

    1. Pas simple en effet de connaître le profil de ses lecteurs !Me concernant, je ne suis pas une férue de BD (passés les schtroumpfs et Tintin, je ne lis rien) et je suis trois autres blogs « BD » : ceux de pénélope bagieu, margaux motin et &la;mo; gruueauland &raquoq. Je viens régulièrement, prévenue par mon Netvibes. En revanche, j’aime bien l’actualité et suis une rédactrice Web de 26 ans ! J’avais découvert sur le Net le journal d’un remplaçant, qui m’avait beaucoup fait rire…Et voilou

  13. "Just remember that the Lord's the one with all of the answers, and He's not often going to make it easy for you to get them. You have to work for them and prove you want them."

    I love this. I think I'd add that not only do you have to work hard and prove you want answers, you have to prove that you're willing to accept and act on the answers, even if they aren't what you want or expect them to be.

    Thanks for your insight!

  14. Arianna,
    Thank you for this. You were able to put into words something that has been bothering me and I haven't been able to put my finger on it. I feel very bad for Kelly. Though I feel she got what she wanted… public recognition and a congregation of her own. I hope she will someday understand how far she has strayed.

  15. Anon- are you aware of the rehaul of the LDS temple endowment ceremony in 1990? Do you know why the changes were made? Because of a survey sent out to discover the reasons many people weren't attending.


    I guess the opinions/popular vote of the people were able to influence change in the highest religious ceremonies of the LDS church. Do you still stand by your claim?

  16. To the blog writer –

    How would you react if 5 years from now, women are given the priesthood? Would your feelings about Kate Kelly change? Here's a few examples of excommunicated Mormons who were a few steps ahead of God 😉

    Important points to remember:

    – 1885: LDS church publicly condemns and releases Bishop John Sharp for renouncing polygamy
    – 1890: LDS church renounces polygamy

    – 1942: LDS church excommunicates Helmuth Huebner, who was arrested for opposing Hilter and was waiting execution
    – 1946:Huebner is posthumously reinstated with note "excommunicated by mistake"

    – 1977: LDS Church excommunicates Byron Merchant and Douglas A Wallace for opposing LDS ban on Blacks receiving the priesthood
    – 1978 LDS church discontinues ban on blacks receiving the priesthood.

  17. MrBubbles- Since you're all-seeing and all-knowing, shall we call you God!? DOCTRINE does not change unless there are revelations by our PROPHET. If you have issue with this, take it up with our MASTER..don't act like you know all of His mysteries… LOL, thanks for wasting my time mate, you lost all your credibility when you quoted Wikipedia..what a joke!

  18. Anon – you ignored my question. I guess the opinions/popular vote of the people were able to influence change in the highest religious ceremonies of the LDS church. Do you still stand by your claim?"

    Was it revelation or a survey that altered the endowment?

    "don't act like you know all of His mysteries." I know almost all of Mormon History mysteries :)

    "LOL, thanks for wasting my time mate, you lost all your credibility when you quoted Wikipedia..what a joke!"

    If you had gone to the link, you would see that the quote has a source – "Greiner & Sherman, Revised Laws of Illinois, 1833, pg. 198–199"

    Here it is in greater detail –
    "Sec 121. Bigamy consists in the having of two wives or two husbands at one and the same time, knowing that the former husband or wife is still alive. If any person or persons within this State, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, the person so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the penitentiary, not exceeding two years. It shall not be necessary to prove either of the said marriages by the register or certificate thereof, or other record evidence; but the same may be proved by such evidence as is admissible to prove a marriage in other cases, and when such second marriage shall have taken place without this state, cohabitation in this state after such second marriage shall be deemed the commission of the crime of bigamy, and the trial in such case may take place in the county where such cohabitation shall have occurred."
    Revised Laws of Illinois, 1833, p.198-99

    I have provided sources for my claims. The fact remains – polygamy was always illegal.

  19. My knowledge of the truth is I prefer to live in the now instead of the past. It is easier for me. It is wrong but easier. I have watched each generation go through the whatifs the whosays and the Idontknows for decades…. depending on what, where and by whom they were taught. The teachers included church callings as well as parents and extended family members. Each person is taught and learns as they are able to at their particular age, surroundings and teachers available. This is in regards to any teaching, not just religion. The history of LDS is not always seen in the best light but always reflects what was happening in the "day". When polygamy was practiced by the LDS, those that were not LDS were simply having children with someone they were not married to. The LDS described their relationships as plural marriages. which accomplished one thing , it pushed the liberation of women forward. A married woman could own land, go to college, own a business…. all in her name. This was not the case for women of other religions or cultures. It was normal for a woman to lose her land holdings upon her husband's death and all lands, monies and holdings be given to the eldest male relative who could turn his back on her and she was in the street. Personally. my family came from the Commonwealth of Kentucky where the eldest daughter inherited the land upon her parents' death. The states were not known for this method of inheritance. Moving forward, when the LDS changes a practice, such as holding priesthood, it is across the board, meaning around the world. The USA wasn't the only one who wanted life to stay the same and that includes most of religious as well as nonreligious peoples. What would have happened to everyone not only here but in South Africa and many other countries who held a core belief that one should only marry from one's kind, or status, or whatever reason they needed. Wallace Simpson caused a king to renounce his kingdom because he married her, a divorced woman, in England. Look around. When you pick at any one thing you must take issue with all that are involved in someway with that one thing. Even when this one thing is changed, blacks all over the world were given the priesthood as an example, people either follow the change, embrace it or they leave. It is an individual's choice. I am aware that polygamy is practiced in other countries and that the LDS does so legally in those countries. There are countries that do not recognize LDS as a religion therefore polygamy is not in question. Interracial marriage, marriage outside of one's religion and outside of one's status are all frowned upon at best and illegal with penalties of death at worst in many parts of the world, communities, religions, neighborhoods, you get the picture. Changes are made as the majority will allow without full blooded wars and even then can are not forever binding as is evidenced by the state of the world today. It doesn't take a genius to realize that 'uncle whomever' us really 'daddy' in any congregation as children make slips of the tongue. I would love to say this is a perfect…. anything but then I wouldn't be here…. reading a blog that underscores 'donts' while using 'darn' which is considered a replacement word for well, you know. If we cannot accept 'means well' instead of pointing fingers then perhaps we should start scrutinizing ourselves. I know I am right now. I won't be returning nor subscribing to this blog. Whatever I thought it was I was wrong. I apologize for the interference but I don't take it back I just will not revisit it.