Even though the LDS Church asked Ordain Women participants to stay off Temple Square in their quest to gain tickets to an all-male priesthood meeting at this weekend’s General Conference, an estimated 500 plan to enter that space Saturday night.
And church officials have no plans to stop them, according to Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly.
LDS General Conference is Saturday and Sunday at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
Saturday’s sessions are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a priesthood meeting for male members at 6 p.m. Sunday’s sessions are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
General sessions will be broadcast live on KSL-TV and BYUtv along with the LDS Church’s website at lds.org.
In addition, Saturday evening’s priesthood meeting, for the second time in history, will be shown live on lds.org, the Mormon Channel and BYUtv.
Mormon officials are closing the square in downtown Salt Lake City to news cameras — despite objections from the press — but not to the activists.
"They have been very clear about keeping media away from Temple Square," Kelly, a human-rights attorney in Washington, D.C., said in a phone interview, "but we are members of the church and people who want to be active participants in it. We don’t think we will be kept out of holy ground."
The group has hired Salt Lake City police to help with traffic control and to accompany the walkers from City Creek Park, then onto the plaza between the LDS Church Office Building and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building before they enter a gate on the square’s east side.
"I had discussions with LDS Church security [personnel] and they said their intent was to let the women come on the property," said Salt Lake City Police Lt. LaMar Ewell.
When asked Wednesday for a comment, LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor pointed to an earlier letter in which Mormon officials asked Ordain Women to gather instead in free-speech zones adjacent to Temple Square.
As a smaller Ordain Women crowd did in October, these women will be asking for standby tickets to the all-male priesthood meeting as a symbol, they say, of their readiness to be ordained to the priesthood, reserved for every "worthy" Mormon boy or man 12 years and up.
Once again, the women will ask, one at a time, for standby tickets at the LDS Tabernacle. The priesthood meeting itself will take place across North Temple in the Conference Center.
"Women are coming from as far away as New Zealand, Germany and Mexico City just to participate in this event," Kelly said. "To deny them the opportunity to ask themselves [for tickets] would be extremely disappointing for women who already feel so marginalized."
If rejected, they will return to City Creek Park to listen to the proceedings on mobile devices. For the second time, the priesthood session is being broadcast live.
Kelly maintains her group’s ticket-request strategy is sound. After all, it was her idea.
"The entire point is for women to assert themselves, to ask for what they want and need," she said, "and to have this conversation with the church and with the Lord."
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