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Mormon women's group meets with LDS Church PR officials

Published May 23, 2014 1:01 pm

Religion • Mormon Women Stand supports the church's status quo: continuing its all-male priesthood.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The LDS Church held a 90-minute video conference this week about global women's issues with leaders of Mormon Women Stand, an online-only group whose mission is to "sustain the Lord's prophet, the [faith's] Family Proclamation as doctrine and our divine role as covenant women for Christ."

In other words, they support the church's status quo — continuing its all-male priesthood.

The meeting comes at a time of intense scrutiny, conversation and debate about women's issues in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and while another Mormon group, Ordain Women, is pushing for female ordination in the church.

Ordain Women has made five formal requests for a meeting with LDS officials, sent to the church's public-relations arm, according to founder Kate Kelly, but "no one has ever responded."

Earlier this year, Kathryn Skaggs, a California mom who writes a popular blog called A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, came up with the idea for Mormon Women Stand, a Facebook drive to gather support for the church's position.

"We're not the church," Skaggs said in an email Tuesday. "We are launching our blog soon. We will share our message and mission with like-minded LDS women who desire to stand with us."

Her group was not meant, Skaggs said, as a reaction to Ordain Women.

Mormon Women Stand, which has neither sought nor received an audience with Mormon officials before, seemed delighted by Monday's exchange with LDS public affairs.

"Through the magic of technology, nearly the entire Mormon Women Stand admin team met with these inspired women [Jessica Moody, Lauren Winder and Teresa Elwood] from [LDS] Church Public Affairs," the group wrote on its Facebook page. "As you can imagine, gathering all of these bold women in one meeting to discuss women's issues was a treasured experience for everyone who participated."

During the middle of Monday's conference, the women reported, "Michael Otterson, managing director of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, took the time to sit in."

At the conclusion, Moody reportedly told the women, that Otterson "wanted to show support for all [MWS] is doing."

"In recent years the church has met frequently with women to find out more about their experiences in the church," LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor said in a statement. "Yesterday's meeting with these thoughtful women was simply a continuation of this effort."

Craynor declined to comment on whether Otterson's statement of "support" constituted an "endorsement" of the group, or what the two parties talked about for an hour and a half. But he did make it clear that the LDS Church will not be hosting a similar conference with Ordain Women anytime soon.

"We are not planning to meet with activist groups whose demands are inconsistent with church teachings and doctrine," Craynor said.

For her part, Kelly said she was glad the church was talking to Mormon women about their experiences.

"I hope they have productive conversations," said the human-rights attorney and Mormon in Washington, D.C. "I just wish they would agree to meet with a group of people who have different ideas."

Ordain Women "may not agree on everything" with LDS officials, she said, "but those discussions are even more vital than with those who toe the line."

pstack@sltrib.com

Twitter: @religiongal