Mormon feminist firebrand Kate Kelly helped found Ordain Women and—until July 4 when she resigned from it—served on its 11-member board. The organization has put pressure on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asking that it to give women the ability to officiate in the church's priesthood. Her actions earned her notoriety in the LDS community, and she was excommunicated from the church in June 2014. Kelly now lives in Kenya with her husband, where she continues to work as a human-rights attorney.
I'm jealous of the wildlife photos and fabric patterns on your Instagram feed. What's the coolest thing about living in Kenya?
The best thing about living in Kenya (aside from regularly seeing giraffes and zebras) is that it's a wonderful place for creative people. There are fantastic things happening here in art, fashion, music and food. If you can think of something in your head, it can happen here.
What's the best thing about being "post-Mormon"?
Freedom—particularly freedom of thought. You are free to say what you really think and feel. What a simple, but liberating thing that is. It's delicious.
Honestly, because I have such a supportive family and because I moved half way around the world immediately after my excommunication, my transition out hasn't been hard at all. My husband has supported me 100%. After the initial shock of my apostasy conviction wore off, I was pretty much fine. Life moves on in some pretty glorious ways.
You sure you don't need any beer recommendations to cope?
Ha! I feel like drinking is something that trying as a 30-something for the first time is one of those instances where you really did just miss the boat.
You're scheduled to speak at the upcoming Sunstone Symposium (July 29-Aug. 1). Is there a speaker you are looking forward to hearing from?
I would love to hear Michael Ferguson's talk on "The Religious Brain Project" and the biology of personal religious experience Friday night. Ferguson is not only a bright neuroscientist, but he also started the group Queer Mormons. He's a Mormon agitator I really respect.
How do you feel about being canonized as a character in Salt Lake Acting Co.'s Saturday's Voyeur?
It's very surreal to become a parody and to be such a part of the zeitgeist in Mormon and Utah culture. "Be portrayed as a character in a musical comedy" was never on my bucket list but, now, I'll pencil it in and cross it off. Because it's awesome.
What would you say to people who think that Mormon progressives should vote with their feet?
For the most part, I agree, actually. For many, many women, the safer and more peaceful choice is to leave the LDS Church. Life outside the church is abundant and full of amazing opportunities without the cognitive dissonance. If you feel compelled to leave the church, definitely follow that impulse. It can be a very healthy, loving choice for you and your family.
However, many people have lots of good reasons to stay. Some are positive: family, community, culture, shared values, etc.; some are very negative: fear, ostracization, lethargy, lack of options, etc. I understand why many women choose not to leave. After all, I didn't leave by choice! There is no one true way to dismantle patriarchy. It will take both people on the inside continuing to agitate, and people leaving to mark their dissent.
I once heard a talk by Sean Covey about how viewing the world through an incomplete paradigm is like having a bad glasses prescription: it affects your ability to see what's going on clearly. What would you recommend as a good introduction to understanding third-wave feminism?
Don't get caught up learning about the 'waves' or academic feminist theory. You don't need to learn a theory to intuitively know that men and women are equal.
One particularly fantastic resource, especially for Mormons or post-Mormons, is the Ordain Women Conversation series. Dr. Kristy Money is the driving force behind these, and she did a wonderful job. We put together very handy, concise packets to help people begin to unpack patriarchy, male privilege and feminism in an LDS context. The First Conversation is wonderful because it helps Mormons recognize the signs of male privilege and has many additional resources. The entire series can be found online here.
Speaking of being able to see things as they are, where do you get your rocking glasses frames?
I get my glasses at many different places. One pair I bought at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market in Paris. I always have my eye out for fabulous frames.
Favorite LDS hymn?
My favorite hymn has been #92, “For the Beauty of the Earth”, since I was a young child. I think now, more than ever, that song speaks to me. Life is beautiful!