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Mormon bishopric wants more time to decide Kate Kelly’s fate

“I feel a lot of hope,” Ordain Women founder tells throng at Salt Lake City vigil.



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According to Ordain Women’s website, supporters across the globe met in private homes or outside Mormon meetinghouses Sunday evening. Some were solitary vigils, with just one attendee.

Several posted photos on the group’s Facebook page. The group advocates the ordination of women to the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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One vigil — which organizers said drew about 100 people — took place outside the Oakton, Va., Stake Center, where the three members of the Vienna Ward bishopric met to discuss Kelly’s case.

She chose not to attend — instead sending a personal letter and a brief written by a lawyer friend in Ordain Women. The group said that more than 1,100 messages were sent from Kelly supporters.

Kelly believes it’s unfair that her Virginia church leaders are disciplining her, since she moved and asked that her records be transferred to a ward in Provo before the Virginia leaders began the disciplinary process last month. She and her husband are living in Utah while they await their visas to move to Kenya later this summer.

A Virginia stake (regional) president put Kelly on "informal probation" in May, but she refused to comply with the requirements that she take down the Ordain Women website and dissociate from the organization.

That prompted a June 8 letter from her bishop, Mark Harrison, summoning Kelly to Sunday’s disciplinary council and telling her that he and his two counselors loved her and are concerned about her spiritual welfare.

"We encourage you to take the steps necessary to return to and stay on the path that will lead to eternal blessings and happiness," Harrison wrote. "Our hope is to assist you in this effort."

Serving with Harrison on the disciplinary council were first counselor Steve Moffitt and a former member of the Vienna Ward bishopric, Kent Stevenson, who stepped in because second counselor Lance Walker recused himself. Walker works full time for the LDS Church as director of public and international affairs in Washington, D.C.

"Our prayers are with those who have to decide these difficult personal matters," LDS Church spokeswoman Ally Isom said Sunday evening in an emailed statement. "We also pray for those whose choices may place them outside our congregation. 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."


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LDS officials note that local lay leaders decide who and when to discipline, all with the motivation to restore the member to full participation in the faith.

Kelly’s letter to the bishopric, posted Saturday on the OrdainWomen.org website, has personal anecdotes describing her love for the church and some pointed criticism of her Virginia leaders.

"I was in your ward for over three years and faithfully served in callings for that entire period. While we interacted frequently in passing, none of you know me well. I am saddened by the fact that you never took the time to ask me questions or get to know my heart while I was living in your ward," Kelly wrote. "Despite the fact that I emailed you in March 2013, August 2013, October 2013 & again in April 2014 regarding my Ordain Women activities, you never bothered to respond or follow up on my repeated invitation to engage in an open dialogue in person."

Kelly also told the lay leaders that if they punish her, they’re punishing hundreds of men and women in the church who have questions about female ordination and "thousands of Mormons who have questions and concerns with gender inequality in the church and want a place to voice those concerns in safety. You are punishing anyone with a question in their heart who wants to ask that question vocally, openly and publicly."

LDS public affairs officials have said several times this spring that asking questions is not a problem, but recruiting others to question doctrine is not OK.

The move to discipline Kelly is apparently part of a wider crackdown on progressive and conservative Mormons. Many are bloggers, authors, speakers and activists who encourage members to reconsider what is and is not doctrine.

In her letter, Kelly asks that the bishopric exonerate her and lift the informal probation and "move restriction" on her church records so that she can participate in the Provo ward.

At Sunday’s vigil in Salt Lake City, Kelly’s mother, Donna Kelly, vowed to stand with her daughter no matter what discipline she faces.

As for women entering the Mormon priesthood, Donna Kelly said, "It may be too late for me and it may be too late for Kate, but maybe not for my granddaughters."

kmoulton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KristenMoulton



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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