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Church discipline proceedings on a member who no longer lives in the stake boundaries?


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I've recently been following the circumstances involving the forthcoming disciplinary hearing of Natasha Helfer.  For those of you who don't know who she is (I didn't), she is a trained and credentialed mental health professional who has long advocated for sexual health and some of those advocacy activities are now being called apostasy.  But, in listening to her discuss her situation, she brought up that she hasn't lived within the boundaries of the Stake in which the disciplinary proceedings are occurring for more than a year and a half.  It should be noted that the disciplinary process did not begin while she still lived there; she had already moved from Kansas back to Utah.  When she brought this up with the Stake President in Kansas, he replied with a letter informing her that he had conferred with her new Stake President in Utah (whom she's never met) and decided that the proceedings would occur in Kansas and that her membership records would remain in Kansas until this was completed.

I used to have a decent grasp of the line of authority and administration in the church, but I have to admit that I've never heard such a thing.  Is this a common practice?  Is it an acceptable practice under church policy?

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Isn't she connected to Dehlin?  I think it would be better for the church to bend a little on this one, if it is a common practice, and have the Utah stake president take jurisdiction.  I know the church leaders don't want to give the impression that SLC has any say in these matters.  However, why give Mr. Dehlin any more ammunition?

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I think that the general authorities can and do override these rules and direct where the proceedings are to occur.  Often disgruntled types (I'm not saying she is) like to make things difficult and move things around.  

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7 minutes ago, Harry T. Clark said:

Isn't she connected to Dehlin?  I think it would be better for the church to bend a little on this one, if it is a common practice, and have the Utah stake president take jurisdiction.  I know the church leaders don't want to give the impression that SLC has any say in these matters.  However, why give Mr. Dehlin any more ammunition?

She has been on Mormon Stories this week, but I don't know that I would consider her "connected" to Dehlin (of whom I am not a fan) in any meaningful way.

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

I think that the general authorities can and do override these rules and direct where the proceedings are to occur.  Often disgruntled types (I'm not saying she is) like to make things difficult and move things around.  

I don't get the impression, from listening to her, that she was attempting to circumvent the process through a technicality.

Edited by ttribe
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Just now, rongo said:

This is one of the reasons leaders can put a move restriction on a record. 

I was involved with a situation similar to this. It resulted in multiple conversations with the helpline, and the top Kirton-McConkie attorney there (he that hath ears to hear, let him hear! --- I don't want to mention the name) spanning several years --- including after I hadn't been a bishop for a couple of years (fact-finding, following up, having me call and talk to new bishops/stake presidents in a new state, etc.). 

I had recommended at the time that we put a move restriction to keep the record in our stake and administer the discipline, but the stake presidency didn't approve it, and then it became a mess once the record left for a ward/stake in another state. If there is a problem that needs to be taken care of with ecclesiastical authority, there can certainly be situations where it is best to do it where the people know the situation. This is particularly true where there are attempts to avoid discipline via moving, looking for friendlier/sympathetic leaders, etc. 

I know nothing about the case you are talking about in the OP, and don't have an opinion on that. 

Interesting, this is new information to me.  In my years as a membership clerk and ward clerk I never dealt with such a thing, fortunately.

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I don't have any handbook knowledge on what I'm about to say here, but it seems reasonable to me that if a ward and a stake have had an association with an individual that they believe should be considered in apostasy or they have done other things that would be grounds for excommunication, and that person moves to another ward or stake where there is no knowledge of the person's teachings or behavior, that it would be prudent for them to retain the person's records and act on the evidence they have.   Otherwise, a person would just need to move somewhere else anytime they are "caught".

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47 minutes ago, Harry T. Clark said:

Isn't she connected to Dehlin?  I think it would be better for the church to bend a little on this one, if it is a common practice, and have the Utah stake president take jurisdiction.  I know the church leaders don't want to give the impression that SLC has any say in these matters.  However, why give Mr. Dehlin any more ammunition?

If she is supposed to have violated some set of rules in Kansas, this would likely be best known to those in Kansas, and the most important witnesses there.  Moving it to a new jurisdiction (where no one knows her) might merely complicate matters.  Dehlin's connection is irrelevant, unless this is part of a conspiracy.  What would be done if this were a sexual abuse matter?  How would transferring it make it better?

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6 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

If she is supposed to have violated some set of rules in Kansas, this would likely be best known to those in Kansas, and the most important witnesses there.  Moving it to a new jurisdiction (where no one knows her) might merely complicate matters . . .  What would be done if this were a sexual abuse matter?  How would transferring it make it better?

I think this applies to apostasy matters as well. It makes more sense to try the case where the background and particulars are well-known by the leaders, as opposed to a new place where they have no idea who she is. 

The OP said that she had never met her stake president in a year and a half, and I do find that odd, if true. If she was making trouble in Kansas, he definitely should have given the Utah stake president a "pass down" and background, and he then should have met with her. 

Wasn't something similar done with Kate Kelly? I seem to remember her refusing to travel back for her disciplinary council.

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I have heard of this and knew a situation many years of of this. I suspect though the thinking is you can't say cheat on your wife/husband and then move elsewhere and expect to get away with it-Now that I think about it we have a brother in our ward that had been exed elsewhere, rebaptized and then moved with his wife here. So, the why's and whatnot of that situation is thankfully unknown to me but he's giving a talk in our ward on sunday! So, but what it he didn't get rebaptized and was still exed or essentially "fled the scene" of something moved elsewhere and they would be none the wise in the new area. I think this is to prevent that 

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Just now, rongo said:

I think this applies to apostasy matters as well. It makes more sense to try the case where the background and particulars are well-known by the leaders, as opposed to a new place where they have no idea who she is. 

The OP said that she had never met her stake president in a year and a half, and I do find that odd, if true. If she was making trouble in Kansas, he definitely should have given the Utah stake president a "pass down" and background, and he then should have met with her. 

Wasn't something similar done with Kate Kelly? I seem to remember her refusing to travel back for her disciplinary council.

granted though has anyone seen their SP in a year and half?! I know what he looks like on zoom!

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4 minutes ago, Duncan said:

I have heard of this and knew a situation many years of of this. I suspect though the thinking is you can't say cheat on your wife/husband and then move elsewhere and expect to get away with it-Now that I think about it we have a brother in our ward that had been exed elsewhere, rebaptized and then moved with his wife here. So, the why's and whatnot of that situation is thankfully unknown to me but he's giving a talk in our ward on sunday! So, but what it he didn't get rebaptized and was still exed or essentially "fled the scene" of something moved elsewhere and they would be none the wise in the new area. I think this is to prevent that 

Often, in "garden variety" cases, someone can move to another place and be tried there just fine (that happens pretty frequently, as these things go). It's cases where one is trying to avoid discipline, or apostasy, etc. where I think a move restriction is best. 

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2 hours ago, rongo said:

 

Wasn't something similar done with Kate Kelly? I seem to remember her refusing to travel back for her disciplinary council.

Exactly. 

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2 hours ago, rongo said:

Wasn't something similar done with Kate Kelly? I seem to remember her refusing to travel back for her disciplinary council.

 

9 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

Exactly. 

Ahhh, I had forgotten that.  So, yes, there's precedent.  Not sure as to the fairness, but that's a different discussion.

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3 hours ago, ttribe said:

I've recently been following the circumstances involving the forthcoming disciplinary hearing of Natasha Helfer.  For those of you who don't know who she is (I didn't), she is a trained and credentialed mental health professional who has long advocated for sexual health and some of those advocacy activities are now being called apostasy. 

From this blog article:

Helfer.jpg

3 hours ago, ttribe said:

But, in listening to her discuss her situation, she brought up that she hasn't lived within the boundaries of the Stake in which the disciplinary proceedings are occurring for more than a year and a half. 

Huh.  That's a bit weird, but not totally unprecedented.

3 hours ago, ttribe said:

It should be noted that the disciplinary process did not begin while she still lived there; she had already moved from Kansas back to Utah. 

Okay.

3 hours ago, ttribe said:

When she brought this up with the Stake President in Kansas, he replied with a letter informing her that he had conferred with her new Stake President in Utah (whom she's never met) and decided that the proceedings would occur in Kansas and that her membership records would remain in Kansas until this was completed.

Ah.  Well, that sort of makes sense.  If the events/misconduct took place in Kansas, it's feasible to have the proceedings take place there.  And if her records are there...

3 hours ago, ttribe said:

I used to have a decent grasp of the line of authority and administration in the church, but I have to admit that I've never heard such a thing.  Is this a common practice?  Is it an acceptable practice under church policy?

No, it's not a common practice.  But it's not unheard of, either.

Offhand, I'd say that two stake presidents conferring and agreeing on a course of action in this vein is likely procedurally workable.

Thanks,

-Smac

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6 minutes ago, ttribe said:

Ahhh, I had forgotten that.  So, yes, there's precedent.  Not sure as to the fairness, but that's a different discussion.

How do you figure "fairness" figures in?

Thanks,

-Smac

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

How do you figure "fairness" figures in?

Thanks,

-Smac

Well, as I said, that's a difference discussion.

But, offhand, I'd first point to the fact that all of the statements and writings for which she is being charged with apostasy were made in public fora and meetings in many locations and have nothing to do, at all, with living in KS for any of them.  Second, I'd point out that, in order for her to properly defend herself, she is being required to incur the cost of travel back to KS when there is no apparent substantive reason for holding the hearing in her former Stake, in the first place.  Third, her witnesses, many of whom actually reside in Utah, are also being required to incur the cost of travel to KS.  Unless you are willing to concede that is a formality and a kangaroo court, then I would say that she has been unduly burdened when a change of venue would have been appropriate.

Edited by ttribe
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4 minutes ago, ttribe said:

Well, as I said, that's a difference discussion.

But, offhand, I'd first point to the fact that all of the statements and writings for which she is being charged with apostasy were made in public fora and meetings in many locations and have nothing to do, at all, with living in KS for any of them.  Second, I'd point out that, in order for her to properly defend herself, she is being required to incur the cost of travel back to KS when there is no apparent substantive reason for holding the hearing in her former Stake, in the first place.  Third, her witnesses, many of whom actually reside in Utah, are also being required to incur the cost of travel to KS.

Do they not have zoom in Utah or Kansas? if the Stake doesn't want to do it over zoom I would say pay my bill for the trip, you want me here-I don't want to be here, you engage me.

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7 minutes ago, ttribe said:
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How do you figure "fairness" figures in?

Well, as I said, that's a difference discussion.

Seems relevant, though.

7 minutes ago, ttribe said:

But, offhand, I'd first point to the fact that all of the statements and writings for which she is being charged with apostasy were made in public fora and meetings in many locations and have nothing to do, at all, with living in KS for any of them. 

How do you know this?

7 minutes ago, ttribe said:

Second, I'd point out that, in order for her to properly defend herself, she is being required to incur the cost of travel back to KS when there is no apparent substantive reason for holding the hearing in her former Stake, in the first place. 

She can't appear telephonically?

As for "no apparent substantive reason," again, how do you know this?

7 minutes ago, ttribe said:

Third, her witnesses, many of whom actually reside in Utah, are also being required to incur the cost of travel to KS. 

That's a fair point.

7 minutes ago, ttribe said:

Unless you are willing to concede that is a formality and a kangaroo court, then I would say that she has been unduly burdened when a change of venue would have been appropriate.

I'm not willing to characterize the proceeding as "a formality and a kangaroo court," but I think you make a fair point (a few, actually) about her being unduly burdened.

Decent grounds for appeal, though.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 minute ago, Duncan said:

Do they not have zoom in Utah or Kansas? if the Stake doesn't want to do it over zoom I would say pay my bill for the trip, you want me here-I don't want to be here, you engage me.

I could see the KS stake president not allowing videoconferencing.  Keep in mind John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, Sam Young, Jeremy Runnells, Bill Reel, who - like Helfer - went out of their way to publicize their councils, and some of whom made and released illicit recordings of the councils.  

On the other hand, I could see a pretty easy workaround.  Schedule the Zoom meeting at Helfer's stake center here in Utah, and ask for assurances that neither she nor her witnesses will bring in recording devices.  That's an accommodation that could work.  Unfortunately, Helfer hasn't helped herself by publicizing the council.

Thanks,

-Smac

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8 minutes ago, smac97 said:

How do you know this?

She read the contents of the letter with her charges of apostasy and she addressed them point by point on where all of these things were allegedly said and done.  She is something of a public figure, it turns out, in the Mormon Mental Health Community.

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She can't appear telephonically?

I believe she was only given the choice to either appear in person, or to submit a letter in her defense.

Quote

As for "no apparent substantive reason," again, how do you know this?

Just my opinion based on my research, thus far.

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I've sat in on multiple church courts as both a member of the bishopric and also as a member of the high council.. Too many to count  I've long believed that these courts should be abandoned by the church and abolished.  They rarely achieve the intended goals. They do nothing to aid the healing of the accused and are often nothing more than spiritual overreach and abuse.  I've yet to see a single member whose membership was stripped of them return to the fold, not one.  Oh the stories I could tell.  

I've often wondered why the church puts its members through these ordeals. The humiliation alone is beyond the pale for these poor souls.  I've witnesses grown men (and women) reduced to such a depths of humiliation that I've had to worry about them taking their own lives after being put through their so called courts of love.  It's been terrible to witness fellow human beings being put through these spiritually abusive courts, no matter what you call them, they are shameful and barbaric.

There is nothing that a court can achieve that couldn't also be achieved by a private one on one consultation with a bishop through confession, nothing.

The church puts its own hubris and self interests above those of its own members.

From what I can ascertain with this particular case, it seems like a witch hunt.  Why is the church after this poor woman.  She did nothing to the church and should be left alone in peace.  It's situation like this that I sincerely wonder who is in charge and why are they abusing these poor people. Its truly embarrassing and so unnecessary and only serves the interests of the church. 

Edited by Fair Dinkum
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1 hour ago, ttribe said:

She read the contents of the letter with her charges of apostasy and she addressed them point by point on where all of these things were allegedly said and done.  She is something of a public figure, it turns out, in the Mormon Mental Health Community.

Yes, I know who she is.  I was wondering as to the accuracy of her public recounting of the bases for the membership council.

1 hour ago, ttribe said:

I believe she was only given the choice to either appear in person, or to submit a letter in her defense.

Just my opinion based on my research, thus far.

In the last many years I've observed John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, Sam Young and others all "go public" with their disciplinary matters.  There were any number of instances where self-serving characterizations were later falsified.  Kate Kelly was particularly bad about this.

So I guess I am a little reticent to take her say-so as definitive.  But then I'm not particularly want to get into the nitty-gritty either.  I don't think she should be publicizing the discipline.  I find it unseemly and inappropriate, not unlike an estranged husband going out of his way to publicly malign and denigrate his wife.  The husband's recitations of their dispute may well be accurate, but the dispute is probably not something that should be hashed out in the public sphere, with rubberneckers gawking and such.

Thanks,

-Smac

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