by Rob T:
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
When I first learned the news Tuesday morning that John Dehlin had been excommunicated from the LDS Church, one thought immediately entered my mind: "I don't want to see anyone 'spiking the football,'" which is what I saw on social media outlets when Kate Kelly was excommunicated. I saw phrases like "take that" and "serves her right." I saw labels like "apostate" and "anti" thrown at her.
I saw the same labels and unkindness directed toward Dehlin.
I went on a Twitter rant myself about it, expressing my view that this occasion shouldn't be a time for schadenfreude or celebration. That if we, as faithful Latter-day Saints, believe that excommunication is ultimately an act of love designed to help someone repent and come unto Christ, then we should act according to that belief — showing love, or at the very least, refraining from unkindness or gloating.
Someone responded to one of my tweets and asked whether it equally enraged me when supporters of Dehlin say the church excommunicates people for merely doubting. I answered that it does, but I'm rethinking that response.
It makes me angry to read that assertion leveled at the Church. I don't believe it is completely true and I think it oversimplifies things. But I can't say it makes me equally as angry as the un-Christlike barbs cast at Dehlin and his supporters. The rest of my reply to that tweet was that I felt I could only worry about things that happen in "my house."
My house, as I'm calling it, is among faithful, active Mormons. And when people whose faith I share react to situations such as a high-profile excommunication in ways I think run counter to teachings in our faith, then that's where I will focus my disdain.
I understand why people will react the way they do to those who criticize the LDS Church, its leaders and its doctrine. Faith is a very personal thing for billions of people, and what one perceives as an attack on their faith will often be taken — and feel — like an attack on themselves. It will sting to hear negative things about something that brings positive feelings and happiness to your life.
So when those who criticize your faith are punished, it can bring a feeling of vindication, and an impulse to "spike the football," to say "well, you got yours, what now?"
That may feel good for a few moments, but it will only bring harm in the long term (raise your hand if you've heard a similar phrase in Sunday School).
Why do Dehlin's Mormon Stories and Kelly's Ordain Women movements have so much popularity and followers? Because many people don’t feel safe expressing doubt, disagreement and disbelief in the halls of LDS meetinghouses and in the chairs of Sunday School. Because sometimes even the slightest hint of doubt will be met with dismissal or worse. I have read of this in people's personal accounts that I have no reason to doubt, and from a personal experience that, right now, I don't want to go into.
So people find "safe spaces" to express and vent their views, and I don't blame them. It's the same principle — though on a smaller scale — that leads me to keep my strong opinions off Facebook but express them on Twitter. I think Facebook is too prone to firestorms, and I just don't want to deal with that.
Are you angry because you believe Kate Kelly and John Dehlin led people — even your loved ones or friends — away from the faith you hold dear? Well, don’t make them want to stay away, because that's what’s happening. Read this about the things Kate Kelly's mother experienced.
Bashing mailboxes? Calling someone "disgusting"? How are either of those an invitation to come unto Christ? Behavior like this does more to undermine the cause of the Gospel — the "good news" that is meant to bring people hope and happiness — than any kind of "anti-Mormon" material.
Followers of Christ must be "peacemakers," offering the olive branch even when we feel the hand that is to accept that branch has harmed us. A loving priesthood leader will most likely assure someone who has undergone church discipline that he or she can be welcomed back with open arms. That behooves the rest of us as members not to use our own arms to push them further away.
Some will opt to return to the fold, some will not. But all should feel nothing but love and hope coming from those who profess to believe in the "merits, and mercy, and grace" of Christ (2 Nephi 2:8), no matter the path they choose.
"Peacemakers" can be read another way, as someone trying to make peace within their own soul. I would guess that most people who express doubts and disbelief have that as their goal, to regain peace in their hearts when they feel their world has been vigorously shaken. As believers in the Prince of Peace, we should be partners in helping others find peace.
Give peace a chance.
Rob T is a native of northeast Pennsylvania and a convert to the LDS Church. He works as a copy editor in Salt Lake City, where he lives with his wife and two (soon to be three) sons. Twitter: @RobTmanJr.
Image credit: Bryan Ahn.