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Ordain Women co-founder Kate Kelly has lost her final appeal to regain membership in the Utah-based LDS Church.

The activist, who is pushing for female ordination to the all-male Mormon priesthood, received word Saturday from her former lay leader in Virginia that the faith's governing First Presidency had rejected the appeal of her June 2014 excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I am disappointed in the outcome, but not surprised since the disciplinary process has been entirely opaque and inequitable from the get-go," Kelly said in a news release posted on the Ordain Women website. "Fortunately, men do not control my happiness, nor do they control my connection to God. I am proud of what I have done. I am proud of the women and men who have taken a stand with me in this struggle for gender justice. We will continue to act with integrity and courage. Mormon women and their legitimate concerns cannot be swept under the rug or summarily dismissed by one 'Court of Love.' "

The feminist also said that her husband, Neil Ransom, plans to resign his Mormon membership.

The couple were married, or, in LDS parlance, "sealed," for eternity in 2006 in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. Under Mormon teachings, her excommunication — and his exit from the faith — would nullify that ordinance in heaven.

"He was never punished by the church," Kelly said in an email, "in spite of doing many of the same things I was accused of."

Kelly was ousted from the LDS Church last summer for "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church," later defined as apostasy.

The discipline came in response to Kelly's push to open the church's priesthood to women, including twice leading a group of Ordain Women supporters to Salt Lake City's Temple Square to seek entry to the priesthood session of the faith's General Conference.

The excommunication was handed down by her then-bishop, Mark Harrison, in Virginia, and later upheld by her former LDS stake president, Scott Wheatley, a regional leader who oversees several Virginia Mormon congregations, including the one she had attended — though she was temporarily living in Utah at the time of her disciplinary hearing.

The feminist then appealed the decision to the church's highest authority, the First Presidency, comprised of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and his two counselors, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf. It is the last avenue for excommunicated Latter-day Saints hoping to regain their memberships.

Kelly, who now lives in Kenya, said Saturday that she got an email from Wheatley, informing her that the top leaders had affirmed the excommunication in a letter. But Wheatley did not allow the activist "to read or have access to the letter from them."

Church spokesman Dale Jones said Saturday that "standard church protocol is for the First Presidency to send the decision directly to the church leader who held the council. That brief letter is simply a notification of the decision and nothing more."

Saturday's news "saddened" Ordain Women Executive Board Chairwoman Debra Jenson.

"We are profoundly troubled by a definition of apostasy that seems to include members asking sincere questions of our leaders," Jenson said in the group's news release. "We reaffirm our commitment to faithful action and our hope for gender equality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

The group had hoped Mormon leaders "would welcome our sister back into the body of the church," Jenson said. "The decision remains a tragic and unfair anomaly among the thousands of those who publicly support ordination for women and have not been punished for speaking out."

In his email to Kelly, Wheatley extended the First Presidency's "warm regards" and urged her to return to the LDS fold "in the prescribed way" — meaning to acknowledge her mistakes and repent.

As Kelly said in June, however, she disputes that she did anything wrong.

"Once the church changes to be a more inclusive place and once women are ordained," Kelly said then, "that's a place I'd feel welcome."

Twitter: @religiongal

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