Mormon Church Excommunicates Kate Kelly in Blow to Women LDS Members

Women seeking leadership roles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were dealt a blow on Monday when the Mormon church excommunicated Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, which advocates for women priests. The Mormon church is famous for wrestling with issues over the religion's treatment of women, most famously thanks to its relationship with polygamy, which is banned by the most prominent denomination but still practiced by fundamentalists. Among the most radical adherents of that fundamentalist denomination, young women or even children are sometimes married to much older men.

But the Church's issues with women are much broader than that, and it would be simplistic and unfair to boil them down to debates over polygamy, which the vast majority of Mormons do not practice. So here are a few others: Until 2012, Mormon women weren't allowed to participate in missions until the age of 21, since lowered to 19. (Men previously served beginning at 19; their starting age was lowered to 18.) Men are still expected to go on the missions, while women are not. Unsurprisingly, women go anyway.

In addition, Mormon women feel strong pressure to wear dresses to church, prompting pants protests; are not allowed to participate in traditional baby-naming ceremonies; and many say they feel generally shamed for being sexual human beings in the Mormon church, which bans masturbation and sex before marriage. One Mormon woman, Elisa Koler, told the Times in March that women in the church are dissuaded from having sex before marriage because doing so will make them "pieces of chewed gum, boards with holes nailed into them, muffins that someone else had already tasted." Whatever your views on chastity, that messaging poses a big problem for church adherents who are raped or sexually assaulted.

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Women are also banned from attending the religion's largest conference, so this spring Kelly showed up with a bunch of protesters to wait in line and be denied entry in person, The New York Times reported in a profile of Kelly earlier this month.

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Kelly isn't the only person affected; the Church has lately contacted several bloggers and other online writers and threatened them with excommunication.

While ordaining women isn't a popular viewpoint among women in the church, promoting feminism and affording greater opportunities to women definitely is. Ordain Women says on its website that its fundamental mission is "to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone," along with advocating for women in the priesthood specifically.

Kelly got a lot of attention, and church leaders ultimately told her to stop sharing her concerns publicly and to instead "address them in private" with her bishop. In a letter, she was told she was "not required to change your thinking or the questions you may have in your own mind," the Times reported. Her response?

What you’re asking me to do is to live inauthentically, and that’s not something I’m willing to do.
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Before she was excommunicated Monday, Kelly told the Times that she was always a faithful adherent to Mormonism.

I am not an apostate, unless every single person who has questions to ask out loud is an apostate. I am a faithful, active Mormon woman who has never spoken anything against the leaders of the church, and that’s not my definition of an apostate.