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Temporary reprieve for Mormon activist facing disciplinary hearing

By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A prominent Mormon activist threatened with disciplinary action and possible excommunication for questioning church doctrine said on Monday he had received a temporary reprieve and that it seems church leaders want to "de-escalate" the dispute.

John Dehlin, founder of the Mormon Stories website and podcast, had been asked to resign from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) by June 18 or face a disciplinary hearing, also called a church court.

With supporters calling for clemency from church leaders, Dehlin wrote online over the weekend that he now has a June 29 meeting set with his regional lay leader, Bryan C. King.

"He’s upset this went to the media," Dehlin told KUER program RadioWest on Monday, referring to King. "He expressed a desire to de-escalate."

The online forums run by Dehlin from Logan, 90 miles (145 km) north of Salt Lake City, are for Latter-day Saints who question church teachings or are struggling with religious doubt.

Last week Dehlin and another activist - Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women group which advocates for gender equality for Mormons - made public the disciplinary threats they had received from the church.

Kelly, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney, is due to be tried for apostasy by regional church leaders in Virginia on June 22.

Kelly, who is moving to Kenya with her husband and will not attend the hearing, told Reuters she planned to write the leaders a letter seeking to keep her membership.

Unlike in Dehlin's case, she said there had been no offer to postpone her hearing. Disciplinary hearing outcomes can include probation, disfellowship, excommunication or exoneration.

Last week, the church said some members had voluntarily taken themselves out of the church by "actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine" due to personal beliefs.

Dehlin and Kelly have received support in the online world of Mormon-themed blogs and social media sites, commonly referred to by Latter-day Saints as the "bloggernacle." 

On Monday more than 70 individuals who run or post on such sites issued a joint statement calling for "clemency," and a petition on change.org urging church leaders to reconsider disciplinary action attracted more than 500 signatures.

(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jim Loney)

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