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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nadine Hansen (left) and Katie Kelly lead the group Ordain Women as they walk to LDS Conference Center to stand in the standby line to try to gain admittance to the Priesthood session of the 183rd Semi-annual General Conference, Saturday, October 5, 2013.
Fear runs through many Mormons in Ordain Women ranks
LDS discipline » Some already have run into trouble in their congregations; others worry that they soon will.
First Published Jul 03 2014 10:21 pm • Last Updated Jul 08 2014 07:31 pm

They are anxious, worried and occasionally petrified.

They have been lectured and patronized and shunned by fellow Mormons who were once friends — and even blocked from family gatherings.

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To see Ordain Women profiles, go to ordainwomen.org.

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In a barrage of brutal online insults, they have been called "mean-spirited," "misguided twits," "heretics to be burned at the stake," "arrogant," "self-centered" and "anti-Christs," who believe that "all men are pigs."

So who are these so-called demons?

They are churchgoing, believing Mormons who boldly posted their photos and signed their names in support of Ordain Women, a movement that pushes for female ordination to the all-male LDS priesthood. These members see no incompatibility between Mormonism and their dedication to gender equality in the faith they love.

Now, such a balancing act has become tougher for many to maintain — and it might depend on where they live.

On June 23, LDS lay leaders in Virginia excommunicated Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly for "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church."

Kelly says her parents, who live in Provo, had their "temple recommends" (which give members access to Mormon temples) withdrawn for supporting their daughter.

When asked if all those who have posted profiles on Ordain Women’s website were in danger of losing their temple privileges, LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor said last month, "Qualifying for a temple recommend is a matter between members and local leaders."

Latter-day Saints revere temples as houses of God, holy sanctuaries where they learn about mankind’s potential and relationship with deity, while taking part in their religion’s highest sacraments, including eternal marriage.

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Since the headline-grabbing action against Kelly, five of the 350 people originally profiled on OW’s website have asked to have their materials deleted, while an additional 175 or so have submitted new profiles. Of the total, organizers say, more than 70 percent attend LDS services at least twice a month — if not more. Only a handful have faced any kind of formal church sanction for their participation, but many more wonder if it’s coming.

Suzette Smith, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, says she has "wise, thoughtful ward and stake [regional] leaders — both men and women," with whom she has discussed her Ordain Women ties.

"I draw strength from serving in the ward and from worshipping with others in faith. I also have a temple recommend and love attending. It is another place where I draw strength and gain insight," Smith writes in an email. "I feel embraced by my ward members and well supported, but I know not everyone agrees. I’m OK with that. We all bring different gifts and ideas to the body of Christ. I do feel that I am watched for my reaction to feminist and priesthood ideas because of my OW affiliation. That can be hard, but I don’t blame others for it. It comes with the territory."

Smith’s main worry is that she will be forced to choose between her recommend and her resolve with the ordination movement.

"I feel strongly about both areas of my life," she says. "I have considered my involvement with OW very seriously, as I think most people do. I have prayed over it, pondered about it, and talked to many faithful friends and leaders about it. I feel strongly about women being ordained and feel guided to be involved in the conversations in and outside OW."

Misperceptions about the movement have surfaced on both sides, Smith says. "I continue to work with the genuine and caring supporters of OW in hopes to repair those misconceptions and move forward together as a church. I seek continual dialogue with my church leaders of all levels and with my fellow saints."

Amy Cartwright, of Calgary, Alberta, feels safer outside the Intermountain West, specifically Utah.

The week after Kelly got a notice of impending disciplinary action, Cartwright got a call from her LDS bishop, asking her to meet with him. She nervously awaited the day, wondering if her Ordain Women involvement — which her Mormon leaders knew about — would cause her ecclesiastical trouble.

No, she says with bemused relief, the bishop extended a "calling" (church assignment) to her.

"He felt I was in a different position than Kate," Cartwright says. "I found it heartening but also disheartening, because I don’t see a huge degree of difference between me and Kate in terms of my goals."

The only thing that would prompt Cartwright to remove her OW profile is if she felt the group was moving in a direction that didn’t feel right. "Currently," she says, "I am still on board."

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