Michael Austin of By Common Consent narrates his dissection of “The Church” (here) and arrives that there are three corporate entities for the Mormon Church, and one spiritual entity that he calls ‘Zion’ or the collective covenant-making people. Austin points out that one can get kicked out of the membership of the corporate entity, but one’s membership in Zion is irrevocable. I disagree.
I’ve heard it said by both John Dehlin and Kate Kelly that ‘you can take me our of Mormonism, but you can’t take the Mormon out of me.’ This could be confused as support to Austin’s point, but it’s clear much of Mormonism is how we think, perceive, act, and live. But consider what Austin is arguing:
“[The Church] is defined solely by the covenants that we make with each other: to mourn together, to draw strength from one another, to bear each other’s burdens, and to jointly turn our weaknesses into strengths… Institutional decisions like these simply do not have anything to do with my own commitments to love, respect, and comfort my brothers and sisters.” Reference
To put it in a different light, I suppose Austin could have ignored institutional decisions by the US Government and sat at the back of the bus mourning with African Americans who were punished by a poor system. I argue that bearing each other’s burdens means when Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat, we link arms with her. John and Kate don’t need a pat on the back. Their movements needs more linked arms. Austin’s approach is very Pilate-esque by washing his hands of the decisions of the institution knowing that he is incapable of change due to his “very little input into the governance” of The Church. I reject that hand washing and label it as weak.
Back to The Church. When the institution picks on individuals, who stands up for individual? Other individuals. This is especially true given Austins point that “neither do I confuse corporate brand management with the voice of God.” If you disagree with brand management, then it’s your duty to let the brand managers know of your displeasure. Did John Dehlin find comfort from his ward? If he did, why did he ask not to be visited? Who was there to mourn with him except those who bore his burden by championing his cause?
Austin may wash his hands of John Dehlin’s excommunication, but the blood stains of inaction are still visible.