The following speech was given on Saturday, October 3, 2015 to Ordain Women Supporters gathered at City Creek Park in Salt Lake City, UT.
My name is Bryndis Wynette Roberts. I am 58 years old. I am African American. I am a convert. I believe women should be ordained.
My belief is grounded both in scripture and pragmatism. From a scriptural standpoint, I believe that the powerful words found in 2 Nephi 26:33 that God invites all and denies none and that all are alike unto God lead to the logical conclusion that God loves all of us equally and that all of God’s children should have the ability to serve in all aspects of God’s church and God’s kingdom. For that eventuality to occur for Latter-day Saint women, we must be ordained. From a practical standpoint, I feel strongly (and my experience in a ward outside Mormondom shows me) that it is not possible to do all that God has commanded us to do when we automatically exclude 50% of God’s children from full participation.
Before I go any further, let me digress a moment and explain what I mean when I say “God.” I do not limit God by our earthly understandings of gender or color or any other human characteristic. When I talk about God, I am talking about Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit acting in concert to bless us, to keep us, to love us, to comfort us, to encourage us.
Now that we understand my terminology, I would like to speak about three points – 1) our history as LDS women; 2) what this action today means; and 3) my commitment to Ordain Women and its future.
I do not claim to be an authority on the history of LDS women. But, I do feel that I can state, without fear of contradiction, that our history shows that in the past we had AND WERE ALLOWED TO EXERCISE more power and more authority than we are allowed to exercise now.
Let me repeat that statement: In the past, we, as women had and were allowed to exercise more spiritual power and authority than we are allowed to exercise now.
The difference between us and our foremothers and forerunners is not that we are any less in God’s eyes than we were then or that we have any less spiritual power than we had then. The difference is that the institutional Church, through years of retrenchment and correlation, has told us that we cannot exercise that power. The necessity that LDS women be ordained grows out of the recognition that for us to (once again) exercise our power and authority and for us to do so at the same level as our brothers, we must be ordained.
Our action today builds on our past and reaches for our future. It has a two-fold purpose – 1) to honor our rich and glorious past and 2) to envision our bright and powerful future.
Because the institutional Church does not teach or even speak about the rich and glorious past of LDS women, part of our job as supporters of Ordain Women is to help educate LDS members about that past. In doing so, we show them that we are not advocating some farfetched, outlandish notions. We also help to dispel their concerns that equality in faith and the ordination of women will lead the Church into some dark, unknown place. Furthermore, because the institutional Church refuses to discuss the ordination of women, the other part of our job is to, literally and figuratively, show LDS members and help them to envision what our beloved Church will look like when all of God’s children have equal access to exercising the power of the priesthood.
Note that I keep emphasizing all of God’s children. It is vitally important that in celebrating and honoring our past that we do not gloss over any of the ugly, exclusionary practices of the past. We must acknowledge that in many of the historical references to women exercising spiritual power and authority, there was a direct link between the exercise of that power and authority and being endowed. Prior to 1978, women who looked like me were not able to exercise the power and authority that our white sisters did. We must acknowledge that fact and we must recognize that merely saying that our vision for the future includes ALL women is not enough. In fact, it is woefully insufficient. We must make sure that every word we say and every action we take is intentionally inclusive, not just on paper, but in reality.
Our action today, which includes women of all races, colors, ages, ethnicities, national origins, ability, sexual orientations, socio-economic status, and educational levels acting in person and by proxy, echoes our commitment to being intentionally inclusive and working to insure that when we reach our goal, we will not look around and see that we have left someone behind.
The members of the Ordain Women Executive Board have shown their support of me by unanimously electing me to be Chair-elect and in April 2016, I will become Chair. I am honored and humbled that my fellow Board members have selected me for this task. Some of you either do not me or you know me only through Facebook and other social media. I give you my promise that I am committed to the belief that LDS women should be ordained and I will bring the full force of my personality to working for that glorious goal. I know that the walls that stand in the way of the ordination of women will not come down and that the gates that bar the way to full participation will not swing open without hard work and struggle on our part. I urge us not to grow weary – not to lose heart – not to be discouraged. Our course is right. Our cause is just. We will prevail. The walls will come down. The gates will swing open. We will receive our keys. I name it and claim it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Honoring our Past,
Envision our Future.
Bryndis Roberts, the author of this post, is currently on Ordain Women’s Executive Board as Intersectionality Chair.