Op-ed: Thanks to Kate Kelly’s bishop, I have my daughter back

By David Mason

Published: June 13, 2014 02:22PM
Updated: June 13, 2014 05:42PM
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Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo Temple Square as the LDS Church nears one of its fall conferences.

I want to thank Bishop Harrison and other LDS Church leaders for standing tall. There was a time when I was worried about my daughter’s attitude toward the church. All through her teenage years, I nursed an anxiety about what her behavior would make of her. The church’s recent forceful action against Ordain Women has effected a tremendous change for the better in my daughter.

All teens rebel. The myriad forms of their rebellion tune themselves uniquely against their parents’ values, so that, no matter what an earnest, well-meaning parent might do, the teenage genius for contrariness will find a way to say no.

My daughter has been particularly obstinate. In my most desperate moment, in her most intractable year, I sat her down and told her, as plainly as I could, “Please, for the love of heaven, get drunk, smoke some weed, get arrested for public disorderliness. Do something. You’re too young to be so straitlaced.”

She did not flinch. Looking back with those still, warm eyes, she only said to me, “Do be silent, Daddy. I’m going to be righteous, and you can’t stop me.” It broke my heart. I lay awake, night after night, tortured that she would grow to be a stranger to her own father.

But, during the past year, the church’s persecution of Ordain Women has turned my disturbingly straight arrow into a right proper agitator. Gone are the days when she would ask to go to church while we were on vacation. Gone is the 16-year-old who would stay out until well after dark shuffling the sister missionaries from hither to yon in my car. Gone is the girl who overpaid her tithing, just in case.

In the past year, my daughter, who is now 20, has responded to the church’s maneuvers to shame and to silence Ordain Women with an indignation that would shock me if it didn’t delight me so much. The little girl who would blush at the hint of evil speaking has found an authentic voice that does not mask its consternation.

Now we enjoy loud laughter together. Now we listen to AC/DC in the house. Turned up to 11.

When she read Bishop Mark M. Harrison’s shamelessly imperious letter to Kate Kelly, and its bewildering threat to excommunicate Kelly across the vast geographic gulf between his ward in Virginia and hers in Utah, my once-never-contrary daughter posted the news to her local YSA Relief Society’s web page. I will tell you that this LDS father’s joy was full when she complained to me with jagged terms that the site’s moderator had removed her post.

My little girl has come back to me. And I have Bishop Mark M. Harrison and whichever other church authorities are behind the persecution of Ms. Kelly and OW to thank. Bless you, one and all. That might sound like sarcasm, and coming from me, I can appreciate that you might not be certain. But let me try to say it as sincerely as I can: bless you, for helping my daughter see divine light.

David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis and author of Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage and My Mormonism. His biography of Brigham Young will be available in December from Routledge.