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Mormon women at U. event: We'll press forward for priesthood

Published April 8, 2013 9:48 am

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For two days, LDS leaders — from male apostles to the faith's top female presidents — have hammered home the message that men and women have different but equally vital roles.

Even so, Kate Kelly is not letting those pronouncements deter her from pursuing priesthood ordinations for Mormon women. In fact, she sees the contrasting perspectives as progress.

"We're beginning to open the dialogue," said Kelly, a devout Mormon and human-rights attorney.

Ordain Women conducted a meeting Saturday night at the University of Utah's Union Theatre at the same time Mormon men and boys were gathering for the all-male priesthood session of the faith's General Conference.

Close to 100 people — including several men — attended the Ordain Women meeting.

Earlier in the day, LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard and Elaine S. Dalton, the church's outgoing Young Women's president, both spoke about the distinct roles of men and women.

"Our daily contributions of nurturing, teaching and caring for others may seem mundane, diminished, difficult and demeaning at times," Dalton said, "and yet as we remember that first line in the Young Women theme, 'We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us,' it will make all the difference in our relationships and our responses."

Ballard said that while men hold the priesthood, they need women to help them fully exercise it.

"Men and women have different but equally valued roles," he said. "Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman."

But those who attended the U. gathering — which one person dubbed a "priestesshood session" — argued that Mormon history shows women performed acts that now are considered priesthood ordinances, such as blessing the sick, and that the Relief Society, the church's women's organization, was patterned on LDS priesthood quorums.

"I am convinced that [Mormon founder] Joseph Smith saw the restoration of female priesthood as part of the restoration of all things," said former Mormon Margaret Toscano, a language arts professor at the U.

Chris Foster, an Orem resident and a friend of Kelly, said he became convinced that women should have the LDS priesthood when he recently blessed his infant daughter.

"When I gave my baby a blessing, [my wife] felt like she should be up there holding her, and I felt so, too," Robert said, adding he hoped his daughter one day would be ordained to the priesthood.

dmeyers@sltrib.com