Decision pending for activist in conflict with LDS Church

Published: Sunday, June 22 2014 10:20 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 23 2014 2:06 p.m. MDT

Kate Kelly and her husband Neil Ransom lead others during an Ordain Women vigil outside the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Faith, doctrine and how questions are raised by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all part of a mainstream and social media conversation that culminated in vigils in Salt Lake City and Virginia Sunday.

The vigils were in support of a woman facing a church disciplinary council for actions related to seeking the ordination of women to the faith’s priesthood, and were timed to take place while the council was in session.

Kate Kelly, who describes herself as a faithful, believing member of the faith, is refusing counsel from her local priesthood leaders to cease her now one-year effort to recruit support and followers for Ordain Women, the name given to her movement and website.

The local church officials charged with both strengthening church members and protecting the faith were trying to determine if her actions constitute apostasy — acting in opposition to the church and its leaders — and asked Kelly to attend or otherwise participate in the disciplinary council in Virginia, her former home.

Kelly chose not to attend the disciplinary council and was instead in Salt Lake City Sunday with about 300 to 350 people at a vigil held outside the LDS Church Office Building and at a nearby park. Kelly's bishop emailed her at about 8:40 p.m. noting the decision would not come Sunday night.

"He and the council have given intense and prayerful consideration regarding her membership status. He has made a thorough review of her response and other materials and wishes to prayerfully consider the matter overnight. He will notify her of a decision, probably (Monday)," said LDS Church spokeswoman Laurie Turner, who was on site in Virginia.

Sunday vigil

Kelly, who was placed on informal church probation in May, said she recently moved from Virginia to Provo and could not attend. But she sent a four-page defense of her actions to the bishopric, and in media interviews during the past two weeks repeatedly said she needed to be true to her "authentic self."

Ally Isom, spokeswoman for the church in Salt Lake City, issued a statement Sunday night:

"Tonight, our prayers are with those who have to decide these difficult personal matters. We also pray for those whose choices may place them outside our congregation," she said.

"In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions. But how we ask is just as important as what we ask. We should not try to dictate to God what is right for His Church."

In Kelly's letter to the Vienna Ward bishopric of the Oakton Stake, publicly posted on the Ordain Women website, she asks not to be disciplined and recounts her time in the church, including her baptism, time at BYU and as an LDS missionary in Spain. Where she appears to part ways with the church is in its teachings of equal, yet uniquely divine roles for men and women.

"I will not stop speaking out publicly on the issue of gender inequality in the church," she wrote to the bishopric.

In an interview with the Deseret News last week, she was equally emphatic about her desire to continue her movement:

"I told (my bishop and stake president) point blank in person, 'I am not going to take down the website and I'm not going to disassociate myself from the group and those are not negotiable,'" she said.

Kelly said church services were "bittersweet" for her Sunday. She said she enjoyed participating in the music and service but was sad thinking it might be her last week as a member, which she described as "very sobering."

Vigil supporters

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