For a second time, Ordain Women and its supporters will try to attend the male-only priesthood session at Mormon General Conference. For a second time, there’s no indication they will succeed.
The grass-roots organization announced Thursday that it expects more than 500 LDS women to meet April 5 at City Creek Park, where they will pray before walking together to the standby ticket line on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.
More than a hundred women did the same last October and were turned away — unable to gain entry to the general priesthood meeting taking place across the street in the Conference Center.
In the end, LDS leaders wound up broadcasting that session live, for the first time, to all viewers.
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to comment Thursday on the women’s latest effort to attend the priesthood meeting in person.
“It was disappointing — I would even say devastating — to be turned away, and to have to experience the exclusion that we feel on a daily, weekly, monthly basis in the church in such a visceral way,” says Kate Kelly, an Ordain Women founder and a human-rights attorney in Washington, D.C.
But Kelly remains optimistic that LDS leaders someday will respond differently.
“It’s entirely possible,” she says, “that, given that we are a church of revelation, that things can change.”
Thus far, Mormon women who have requested tickets to the priesthood session have been denied by local LDS leaders, according to an Ordain Women news release. The group also sent a formal request to various church offices at the end of February, but Kelly says they have not received a response.
Mormon priesthood ordination is restricted to worthy males age 12 and older, and the priesthood session is the only General Conference session not open to both genders.
In a “frequently asked questions” page on the group’s website, Ordain Women references a church story about last year’s death of Frances Monson. The wife of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, she tried to listen to her husband’s priesthood meeting speech after he had become a newly selected apostle. She first stood in the Tabernacle doorway, but “the ushers wouldn’t allow it, so she stood as near to the window as possible to hear the talk.”
Ordain Women’s ultimate goal is inherent in its name — to see worthy women ordained to the Mormon priesthood. It’s not, Kelly says, to “let women attend the priesthood session.” The group sees entrance to the priesthood meeting as a baby step that shows women are willing to take on the responsibilities that come with ordination.
“I feel like, in general, the purpose of this action is to shed light on the fact that women and men are not equal in our church,” Kelly says. “Far from being a protest against the church, it’s an act of showing that we want to participate.”
Neylan McBaine, founder of the Mormon Women Project, argues women can achieve equality without “sameness” and that there are benefits to allowing both genders to segregate at times.
“Women themselves,” McBaine says, “have a long way to go in claiming the authority that our leadership has said is theirs” by getting more involved at a local church level.
A 2011 Pew Research Center national survey found that 90 percent of Mormon women and 84 percent of men answered no to the question: “Should women who are dedicated members of the LDS Church be ordained to the priesthood?”
Kelly dismisses the poll as a biased question, because it’s asking Mormons to contradict their church, and that she herself may have answered no. She says the right question is: “If Thomas S. Monson were to announce women will now be ordained to the priesthood, would you accept this revelation?”
McBaine says she was “put off” when Ordain Women continued with its attempt to secure tickets, even after LDS leaders decided to broadcast October’s priesthood session on television so that men and women, inside the faith and out, could watch.
“I thought it still could have been a win for them and they pushed it too far.”
The Salt Lake Tribune later discovered that the church had sent a letter to LDS area authorities and stake (regional) presidents days before the conference informing them that women were to be allowed to watch the priesthood broadcast at local Mormon meetinghouses — if they insisted after first being told that “the meeting is for men.”
Although Kelly says she knows several women showed up to watch with their local congregations, the current plan for April is not to view the priesthood broadcast at LDS meetinghouses but rather to replicate the attempt to get tickets to the Conference Center session.
“We’ve already had commitments from people who are coming from Australia and Germany, and the whole gamut of states,” Kelly says. “I’m really hopeful that it will be a much larger group this time.”
Ordain Women — Part II
p Saturday, April 5, Ordain Women and its supporters will meet at City Creek Park, 110 N. State St., and say a brief prayer before walking to Salt Lake City’s Temple Square to try to get tickets to the all-male priesthood session in the nearby Conference Center. If denied, the group will reconvene at City Creek Park to watch the session together on portable electronic devices.