The Downfalls of Triumphalism
by Josh Weber
Over the last several weeks, I’ve had ample time to ponder the events that have played out in LDS culture with the excommunication of Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women. I imagine anyone who has taken the time to be on social media and read about this has done likewise. While I still find myself left with more questions than answers concerning the situation, there is one question that I wish I didn’t have to be asking: Why are we treating each other with such disrespect? I suppose the simple answer is that these issues strike at the heart of our testimonies and everyone feels as if they have skin in the game, even if they have no immediate connections to anyone in Ordain Women. With that in mind, it still greatly disturbs me that a sense of triumphalism pervades some bloggers posts when it comes to talking about Kate Kelly.
Now, I’m not here to comment on where I stand personally with this issue. Plenty of bloggers have already done that and I don’t think that anything I have to say in that area will be significantly different than much of what has already been said. What I do want to speak out against is triumphalism. I recognize that all bloggers have bias to some degree or another, but it disturbs me when I read comments like, “Three cheers for the excommunication of Kate Kelly!” or “Thank goodness she is gone!” It blows my mind to read comments like these. I think that some have gone a little too far in sensationalizing this issue to the degree that the focus is no longer on the doctrine of women and the priesthood; it has become denouncing Kate Kelly as a modern day Korihor. The comparison makes me sick to my stomach.
It is simple to look at Korihor and categorize him merely as one who was trying to lead people astray and I believe that this is where most who compare Kate Kelly get their definition. What they fail to take into consideration is that Korihor wasn’t just trying to lead people astray. He was an anti-Christ. He taught that, “there is no God, no fall of man, no penalty for sin, and no Christ.”- Alma 30 Chapter Heading. While Kate Kelly’s actions have resulted in her excommunication, they do not begin to approach how deluded Korihor was. But, supposing Kate was a modern-day Korihor, does calling her an anti-Christ really help anyone? Let’s not forget that Kate Kelly has had her covenants declared invalid. She’s been stripped of an essential part of her identity. To anyone who has made those covenants it is nothing short of devastating to have this happen. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Christ would not be badmouthing her or cheering her exit from the church.
I’m not advocating one way or another for Kate Kelly or her cause. But, it pains me to see the way that we treat each other, on both sides of the issue. Again, let’s remember that triumphalism does no one any good here. It only creates barriers between us as spiritual brothers and sisters and makes us resent each other. The statement issued by the First Presidency made no mention of what they deemed Kelly’s personal character to be. They simply explained what happens when apostasy occurs and at no point did they encourage us to go mud-slinging on social media. To all who have been offended, I would encourage you to not return offense to those who have offended you and stay in the church. The church needs everyone and no matter how far one may have strayed, we should never be kicking them when they’re down. We should be extending a hand of fellowship and seeking to understand rather than finding new ways to stir up controversy.