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Two Mormon activists say they are facing church discipline

Published: Wednesday, June 11 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, walks through the gate onto Temple Square to the LDS Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Saturday, April 5, 2014 to ask for entrance into the priesthood session of general conference.

Ravell Call, Deseret News archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — The leader of a small activist group seeking the ordination of women to the priesthood in the LDS Church is on church probation and now faces a disciplinary hearing.

Kate Kelly said a Virginia bishop scheduled a church disciplinary council for June 22 for Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, which unsuccessfully tried to gain entry to the general priesthood meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the faith's annual October and April general conferences.

A second LDS activist, John Dehlin, said he received a letter Monday from his stake president in Logan, Utah, asking if Dehlin's recent actions meant he wanted to remove his name from church records. If not, President Bryan King wrote, "then I think we are to the point where I should convene a formal disciplinary council on your behalf for apostasy."

Church leaders carry out discipline in confidence, and the church did not comment Wednesday on Kelly's or Dehlin's situations. A church spokeswoman did make a general statement.

"Sometimes members’ actions contradict church doctrine and lead others astray," spokeswoman Kristen Howey said. "While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by church headquarters."

Both Kelly and Dehlin said Wednesday they hope to remain in the church. LDS Church disciplinary councils can end in no action, formal probation, disfellowshipment or excommunication, according to a detailed explanation on MormonNewsroom.org.

Councils are held by bishoprics in local wards or at the stake level. An LDS stake is a geographic grouping of wards or congregations. Some disciplinary councils address apostasy, as in the cases of Kelly and Dehlin.

Kelly said her bishop and stake president took no disciplinary action after a meeting in December. However, she revealed Wednesday that she has been on informal probation since May 5, a month after she led a group of just over 200 women and men in Ordain Women's second general conference action, despite receiving a request from a church spokeswoman that the group refrain.

A church spokeswoman wrote in the letter to the group that Ordain Women's actions were detracting from thoughtful discussions about women in the church.

In October, Kelly and about 150 women with Ordain Women gathered outside the general priesthood meeting for the first time and approached the stand-by line for men without tickets. One by one, the women approached an usher, then left when they were denied entry.

The church spokeswoman's letter said LDS leaders are listening to women and responding. Recent changes include lowering the missionary age for women to 19. Other changes in the past two years include new leadership roles for sister missionaries, the inclusion of more women in congregation leadership meetings known as ward councils and prayers by women at semiannual general conference meetings.

In 2011, the Pew Research Center surveyed American Latter-day Saint women and found that 90 percent opposed the ordination of women to the priesthood.

On May 5, Kelly met with President Scott M. Wheatley, president of the Oakton Virginia Stake, and one of his counselors, President Kenneth Lee.

Wheatley placed Kelly on "informal probation," according to a letter she said he sent her May 22, for “openly, repeatedly and deliberately acting in public opposition to the church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so, for continuing to teach as doctrine information that is not doctrine after having been counseled regarding the doctrine of the priesthood, and for leading others to do the same."

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