June 19, 2014 -- The Mormon blogging community has felt shock waves after two activists, Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, were threatened with excommunication by the church for their online activities.
The church sent threatening letters on consecutive days to Kelly, the founder of a women's rights group within the church, and Dehlin, who runs a forum for Mormons questioning their faith, the pair told ABC News. Kelly recently led a march in Salt Lake City's Temple Square, which prompted the letter.
This week, more than 70 bloggers signed a letter of support for Kelly and Dehlin, a show of support from an internet community that may not be visible in the mainstream, but is legions strong on the web.
"In light of possible disciplinary action against prominent voices among us, we the undersigned Mormon bloggers and podcasters affirm the value of the conversations that take place in the LDS 'Bloggernacle' and express our hopes for greater understanding and compassion from all of us involved in current tensions," the group wrote in a letter posted on Religion News.
Many Mormon blogs, colloquially referred to as the "Bloggernacle" (a play on blogs and tabernacle), portray a rosy image of life as Mormon, particularly those run by "Mormon Mommy Bloggers."
This subset of the Bloggernacle, with such well-read websites such as Love Taza and NieNie Dialogues, is filled with pictures of smiling families, recipes, craft project ideas, modest fashion choices, and other trendy topics with a religious spin.
But among the cheery family photos, some Mormons have been grappling with their church's doctrine, including Kelly and Dehlin. Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, has been pushing for women to have the ability to become priests in the church, along with the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog and the Inquisitive Mom blog.
Others have been discussing the plight of gays in the church, including the blog Rational Faiths.
"The issues in Mormon doctrine, history, and practice highlighted by those facing church discipline are much larger than any one individual. It is not only unavoidable that these issues will continue to be discussed; such discussion is good for the health of our religious community and faithful to the truth-seeking spirit of the Latter-day Saint Restoration," the 71 bloggers said in their letter of support.
"They are trying to force me out of my faith and it's excruciatingly painful," Kelly told ABC News recently.
"You can't say we're a broad diverse church, a 21st century church, and be excommunicating people like it was the 1800s," Dehlin said.
The church, which has a strong presence online, including its own Pinterest boards and Facebook and Twitter accounts, told ABC that it was simply trying to keep the doctrine clear for its followers.
"When some members attempt to change clear church teachings to fit their personal preferences and encourage others to follow them, doctrine needs to be clarified so that others are not misled," the church said in a statement.