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How Mormon women might have gotten into priesthood meetings

First Published      Last Updated Oct 11 2013 11:23 am

More than 130 women from the Ordain Women movement, seeking entrance to the Oct. 5 all-male priesthood session of the LDS Church's 183rd Semiannual General Conference, were turned away with the message: the Conference Center meeting was for men and boys only.

If the women had gone, though, to one of the Utah-based faith's chapels to watch a broadcast of the session, would they have been allowed to enter?

Possibly — if they insisted.

"We have received inquiry about whether women may be admitted to local meetinghouses to view the broadcast of the general priesthood meeting," read a letter to all LDS area authorities and stake presidents sent days before conference. "If women ask to be admitted, please inform them that the meeting is for men and that men are invited to attend."

That is the reverse procedure for the all-women Relief Society broadcast, a week before LDS General Conference, the letter noted. "The meeting is for women, and women are invited to attend."

However, Mormon meetinghouses "should be places of peace, not contention," the letter instructed LDS leaders, so if women "become insistent" about entering the priesthood session "to the point that their presence would be disruptive, please allow them to enter and view the conference."

It is unclear if any of the Ordain Women supporters attempted to watch the priesthood broadcast at a local LDS chapel.

The feminist group had announced its intentions in August, saying it was seeking entrance to the meeting to show Mormon women are ready to hold the priesthood, which is reserved for males ages 12 and up.

On Sept. 24, the LDS Church announced that it would broadcast the priesthood session live for the first time on television and the Internet.  Women and others then could view the proceedings. Plus, the church said, a full report of the meeting would be published within a few days of the conference.

That same day, Ordain Women organizers received a letter from church spokeswoman Ruth Todd, denying their request for admission, saying, "Tickets for the priesthood session are reserved for men and young men."

Scores of women then stood in line for standby tickets and, one by one, were denied entry to the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

Peggy Fletcher Stack