On Kate Kelly’s Comments

In her latest op-ed in the Guardian, Kate Kelly writes about the then-pending disciplinary council of John Dehlin. She makes many claims that merit rebuttal, among them that disciplinary councils are a “form draconian bullying.” She also shares the Joanna Brooks quote about excommunication being a 15th century solution. I’ve shared my thoughts on the unfortunate necessity of excommunication here, so I’ll leave that for now. KK1

Instead, I’d like to address the comment of hers that has garnered the most attention. Kelly states, “Sadly, the Mormon faith has become a place that incentivizes the survival of the least fit. Since strict obedience is demanded and harshly enforced, only the least talented, least articulate, least nuanced thinkers, least likely to take a stand against abuse, and the least courageous people thrive in the Church today.”

In Kelly’s formulation, an environment of strictly enforced obedience has driven everyone out but the talentless, the inarticulate (?), the dim, the cowardly and those who countenance abuse. This has created a crisis in which “the survival of the faith tradition as a whole hangs in the balance.”

One wonders where to begin. But that is perhaps because one is inarticulate and unable to think in a nuanced way.

One is sorely tempted to resort to sarcasm and invective in response to these accusations. One cannot resist the temptation to note the values she mentions – talent, articulateness, intellectual prowess, courage and the propensity to stand against abuse. Admirable traits, all, especially the last two. The first three, however, strike me as relatively unimportant in the context of a Church, and seem to tell us much more about Kelly’s values than the state of the Church.  No mention is made of faith. Or hope. Or charity. Or good works. Or virtue. Or selflessness. Or service.

Rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks, I’ll refute Kelly’s claims with facts (an approach she may want to consider for her next op-ed, as this one was remarkably free of them.) Because there aren’t any large-scale studies that provide data on the areas where Kelly believes the Church is lacking, we’ll have to settle for individuals that disprove Kelly’s contentions.

On the question of talent. (I guess we’d have to know what kind of talent Kelly is talking about here to be able to fully refute her point. I just threw a bunch of random ones up here. Athletic? Artistic? Intellectual? Political? Business? Let me know and I’ll give you like 7 bajillion examples of the one you pick.)

On the question of articulateness. (See also: anyone linked to directly below. One wonders if Kate Kelly has ever heard Teryl Given speak? Richard Bushman?)

On the question of nuanced thinkers. (This one was honestly so easy. I’m legitimately embarrassed for Kate Kelly on this one. And that’s just Mormons in academia. No one in business, none of the GAs, no one in politics.)

On the question of taking a stand against abuse. Also, see here.

On the question of courage. (See the two links above. And like ten million other cases, public and private.)

On the question of whether the Church is teetering on the verge of collapse.

I’d invite Ms. Kelly to demonstrate her nuanced thinking and articulateness by providing us some, you know, actual facts that support her contention that the LDS Church has turned into a troglodyte reserve. I promise to enlist the help of a non-Mormon friend to help me understand them.


  1. Bryan Hawkins · ·

    So what is the point of your blog exactly? You purport to offer some pseudo-intellectual approach to Mormonism but align yourself with the Church 100% of the time. It’s like listening to a suicide bomber with a keyboard. Hip…clever…new agey…and the result is always defending your faith regardless of the position/argument. What courage. Prepare to be stroked by fellow “liberal” Mormons for your enlightened approach that once again (drumroll please) fully agrees with the Church. Just write for the D-news…at least you’ll get paid.

  2. davisbell · ·

    Hi Bryan. The point of the blog is actually stated right at the top there – “Promoting better-informed discussions of Mormonism.” I’m not sure why anyone would purport to offer a “pseudo-intellectual approach” to anything, as pseudo-intellectual is a negative term. And neither Ryan nor I pretend to be intellectuals. (Or hop. Or new agey. Clever . . . occasionally.) And I don’t honestly understand your comment about being like a suicide bomber with a keyboard.

    But yeah, we generally agree with the Church line on stuff.

    Sadly, we NEVER get strokes from the liberal Mormons. 😦

  3. Dianna Kearney · ·

    Could you provide a link to Kate Kelly’s Guardian op-ed comments? I can’t seem to find it on Google.

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