Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
362:  ‘That Was Not of God’:  Natasha’s Witnesses Speak Up

362: ‘That Was Not of God’: Natasha’s Witnesses Speak Up

Ambivalence, ambiguity, lack of accountability and spiritual abuse characterize Natasha Helfer’s membership council. Wanting to preserve her church membership, Natasha and her community (in and out of the LDS Church) rallied around her in support. They were scrupulous about following any protocols, adhering to any requests and seeking to meet the requirements of the Derby Stake President Steve Daley, who had convened the council.

It was all for nought however. Everyone, including Natasha, were ejected, and the council continued without her. My guests, who flew out to Witchita, are all Temple Recommend Holding LDS women whose feelings about the church have been profoundly affected.

Podcast Audio


  1. Ryan

    A major problem with these high-profile church disciplinary actions is the lack of notice or, to put a fine point on it, the ambush.

    The ambushing occurs throughout the process. The leaders ambush the accused with new accusations not previously discussed during counseling with the accused. The leaders ambush the accused with arbitrary rules not previously provided to the accused.

    Counseling with the accused before a membership council is important because (1) the leaders and the accused need to be on the same page regarding what actions are alleged to give rise to the church discipline and (2) the leaders and the accused need to be on the same page regarding the leaders’ theory as to how those actions constitute apostasy. It may be that, after counseling, the leaders might understand the accused more and decided discipline isn’t needed. But even if the leaders maintain that discipline is needed, the accused needs to the actions and theory of apostasy to defend herself.

    Here, the Kansas leaders did not counsel with Natasha before her membership council. The Kansas leaders had their first interaction with Natasha a year after she had moved to Utah. In that call, they started to make a series of accusations. Wisely, Natasha asked them to put their accusations in a letter, so that she could have time to prepare a thoughtful response instead of having to defend their ambush in the moment. The Kansas leaders emailed a first letter that Natasha never received. After the Kansas leaders emailed a second letter to Natasha that she received, Natasha asked to work with Utah leaders instead of the Kansas leaders. Rather explaining that her request was denied and asking Natasha to respond to their letter or meet to discuss their letter, the Kansas leaders sent a membership council letter, which was hand delivered to Natasha on Easter Sunday.

    Providing notice of all of the membership council’s rules is also important. Rules about phones, notes, restrooms, admittance to the building, and such should be provided beforehand so that the accused and their witnesses can come prepared. Demanding that people bend to the arbitrary rule of the leaders in the moment is abusive.

    Sadly, the Kansas leaders could not have cared less about counseling with Natasha nor about her welfare nor the welfare of her witnesses. As on panelist noted, the rules are for the organization’s benefit. That’s why they are so comfortable making up rules on the fly and selectively enforcing or disregarding the rules in the church handbook.

    These Kansas leaders dishonored the church and should be ashamed of how they abused Natasha and her witnesses in this process.

  2. Adriana de Jong

    I’m sorry to say … but listening to how all things went there is one picture that comes into my mind:

    A farmer and how he relates to his cattle.
    How he acts when he brings the cows to leave the barn. He is not showing any inner light of respect and love. He may be using a stick to make a cow walk faster or just a slap with his hand. He may talk with the cows or shout if it’s not going fast enough. He may laugh at the cow. But there is no any of inner light or relationship with the cattle. Afterall, now it’s milk, but in the end it’s only meat on the table.

    That is the picture I get from these patriarchy minded men.

    Along the way they lost an inner awareness. That inner awareness why Jesus came to earth to teach us and help us remember as the basic tool of life: love !

    They say they are following Jesus, but patriarchy swept the path away.
    And they aren’t even aware of how they go astray !

    Natasha, my heart is bleeding with you. HUGS !!!!!

    Peace !

    Adriana de Jong
    The Netherlands

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