Ordain Women founder's recruitment efforts result in excommunication from LDS Church

Kate Kelly's 'conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church,' bishop says

Published: Monday, June 23 2014 2:20 p.m. MDT

Kate Kelly speaks with reporters during her vigil Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — The founder of Ordain Women was excommunicated from the LDS Church on Monday after she refused to stop aggressively recruiting others to her belief that women should be ordained to the church's priesthood.

Kate Kelly learned Monday afternoon about the decision through an email from Bishop Mark Harrison of the Vienna Virginia Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to a press release distributed by an Ordain Women spokeswoman.

Ordain Women provided Harrison's letter to the Deseret News.

"The difficulty, Sister Kelly, is not that you say you have questions or even that you believe that women should receive the priesthood," Harrison wrote to Kelly. "The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others.

"You are entitled to your views, but you are not entitled to promote them and proselyte others to them while remaining in full fellowship in the church. ... Your disregard of our advice and counsel left us no alternative but to convene last night's council."

The ward disciplinary council had three options — no action, disfellowshipment or excommunication.

Kelly, 33, an international human rights attorney who moved to Provo, Utah, in mid-May after she was placed on church probation, chose not to return to Virginia for Sunday's council. She also declined an invitation to join by phone or video conference, but she participated by supplying the three-person council with a letter from herself, what she described as a "brief" from an attorney friend and about 1,000 letters from supporters.

"The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful," Kelly said in a statement made through the Ordain Women press release. "Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better."

Harrison invited Kelly to return to church membership, and offered her a clear path back, which is the intent of LDS disciplinary councils. While she no longer can participate as a member in good standing, Harrison urged her to continue to attend church, read the scriptures and pray daily.

"This is an opportunity for you to begin anew," he wrote, "to take full advantage of the great gift of the Atonement, to again qualify for the blessings of the temple and to enjoy again all the blessings of the restored gospel. It is my sincere prayer and desire that you will do so."

Harrison's letter contradicted two statements Kelly has made to media outlets.

First, Kelly said previously that prior to convening the disciplinary council, Harrison declined to meet with her for more than a year. Harrison's letter said they did meet.

Second, she told the Deseret News last week that Harrison did not offer her an opportunity to attend the disciplinary council via video conferencing. Harrison's letter said he had and that he wished she had accepted his offer.

Kelly repeated the claim that Harrison had ignored her requests to engage with her in her letter to the disciplinary council, writing that she had emailed Harrison in March, August and October 2013 and again in April 2014 inviting him "to engage in an open dialogue in person" without a response.

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