Mormon women's group founder faces excommunication

Updated: 2014-06-13 07:28

By Associated Press in Salt Lake City(China Daily)

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Two months after Mormon Kate Kelly led hundreds in a demonstration to shed light on gender inequality in the religion, the founder of a prominent Mormon wom-en's group is facing excom-munication.

Kelly said she was shocked, dismayed and devastated to receive a letter on Sunday from the bishop of her con-gregation in Virginia inform-ing her that a disciplinary hearing had been set for June 22 to discuss the possibility of her ouster. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of posi-tions that oppose church teachings.

John P.Dehlin, the creator of a website that provides a forum for church members questioning their faith, is fac-ing the same fate. He received his letter from a local church leader in Logan, Utah, on Monday, giving him until June 18 to resign from the faith or face an excom-munication hearing. The let-ter says church leaders are deeply concerned about Dehlin's recent comments about no longer believing fundamental teachings of the faith.

The cases against the two lifelong members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat-ter-day Saints mark the most high-profile examples of excommunication proceed-ings since 1993, said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious stud-ies at Washington State Uni-versity. That year, church disciplined six Mormon writ-ers who questioned church doctrine, ousting five and kicking out a sixth only tem-porarily.

Mormon women's group founder faces excommunication

Church leaders seem to be drawing a line between pri-vate or informal expressions of discontent with church teachings and public protests aimed at pressuring the church, Mauss said.

"The LDS Church is not a democratic institution, and has never claimed to be," Mauss said in an e-mail, "So such actions are interpreted by church leaders as attempts to displace or undermine their legitimate authority over church policies and teachings."

Church officials said in a statement on Wednesday that there is room for ques-tions and sincere conversa-tions about the faith, but that some members' actions "con-tradict church doctrine and lead others astray".

In certain cases, local lead-ers step in to clarify false teachings and ensure other members aren't misled, the church's statement said. Dis-ciplinary hearings only come after members are counseled and encouraged to change behavior.

"Some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doc-trine to comply with their personal beliefs, "the state-ment reads." This saddens leaders and fellow mem-bers."

Even if Kelly and Dehlin are kicked out of the church, the door will remain open for them to repent and return someday. Excommunication is not a lifelong ban.

Kelly and Dehlin both hope to be allowed to contin-ue to be members of a church that they love and that has been a part of their lives since birth. Both served Mormon missions and were married in temples.

(China Daily 06/13/2014 page10)