Why are women seeking to attend the priesthood session?
We are demonstrating our desire for both the blessings and the authority of the priesthood and asking LDS Church leaders to prayerfully consider the ordination of women.
What do you hope to achieve?
We hope our leaders welcome us to the general priesthood session and consider our untapped potential. Attending the priesthood session will demonstrate our desire for ordination and willingness to perform a full range of priesthood duties. Many of us are traveling to Salt Lake City from other states and countries. In joining together, we are punctuating our commitment to Mormonism and fervent hope for the extension of priesthood ordination to all worthy adult members of the LDS Church.
What exactly is going to happen? What will you do?
On Saturday, April 5, 2014, at 4:00 p.m., we will meet at Salt Lake’s City Creek Park (110 N. State Street). Following a brief prayer service, we will walk together to the LDS Conference Center and request to be admitted to the priesthood session. If admitted, we’ll attend and then return to City Creek Park to celebrate this historic event. If we’re not admitted, we’ll reconvene at City Creek Park and listen together to the priesthood session on portable electronic devices.
You were denied admittance to the all-male general priesthood session in October. Why try again?
Our goal of priesthood for women remains unrealized in the LDS Church. Many who support the ordination of women were either unaware of the October action or unable to participate. They want an opportunity to join their voices with ours in publicly expressing their desire for priesthood ordination. We applaud recent church initiatives, including an emphasis on collaborative, gender-inclusive councils, greater encouragement for women to serve missions, and the opportunity for women to both pray and speak in general conference. Following our peaceful, faith-affirming efforts in October and April, we hope church leaders will continue to respond positively to the expressed desire of the women they serve for a more inclusive church and that their hearts will be receptive to the ordination of women.
Ordain Women engages in faith-affirming strategic action. How is this different from political action?
Our understanding of the gospel is that the heavens are yet open. The 9th Article of Faith states: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” We believe that the expansion of priesthood keys must come through revelation to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That church members play a role in this process is demonstrated throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, which includes many examples of revelations received after members approached the Prophet and requested revelation. This pattern was established by Jesus, who said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). It is our faith in this process that compels us to action. “And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen” (D&C 30:11).
Is this a protest?
No. We will not protest. We see ourselves as future priesthood holders and will comport ourselves with the dignity that ought to accompany priesthood office. We plan to attend the priesthood session and listen to the words of our leaders. We do not want to disrupt anyone’s worship experience. If admitted, we will reverently enjoy the session. If barred from attending, we will peacefully leave. In keeping with the reverent nature of the event, organizers have asked participants to abide by the following guidelines:
- No anti-church diatribes
- No signs or banners
- Sunday best dress
Women now have a General Women’s Meeting a week before each semiannual general conference. Isn’t that sufficient?
Exclusionary policies concern us. Unlike the other sessions of general conference, the General Women’s Meetings are not considered part of general conference. They are auxiliary meetings and, as such, represent women’s secondary status in the LDS Church. We are saddened by the story of Sister Frances B. Monson’s exclusion from the Priesthood Session years ago. “As a newly called member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the then Elder Monson was assigned to speak in general Priesthood meeting. Frances tried to stand in the doorway of the Salt Lake Tabernacle to listen to her husband speak, but the ushers wouldn’t allow it, so she stood as near to the window as possible to hear the talk” (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/frances-monson-passes-away).
Shouldn’t men have their own session of general conference without women?
If gender-specific sessions are vital, we wonder why women do not have their own general conference session without men. Men attend, speak at, and preside over the General Women’s Meeting. Moreover, the General Women’s Meeting is not one of the five sessions of the semiannual general conference, but rather it is a meeting set apart from general conference. We are not necessarily opposed to gender-specific meetings. After women are ordained, it might be appropriate to continue having occasional women’s meetings and men’s meetings. However, we do not believe women should be excluded from the priesthood of God or meetings where important announcements as to the governance and doctrine of the Church are discussed.
Why are you advocating in public?
There seems to be a perception among church leadership that Mormon women are content in their prescribed roles. In response to a question during a 1997 interview about whether the policy banning women from the priesthood could change, then President Gordon B. Hinckley said it could, but it would require revelation. The reporter probed, “So you’d have to get a revelation?” Hinckley responded, “Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied.” (http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/hinckley.htm) More recently, our current General Relief Society President Sister Linda K. Burton repeated this assumption: “I don’t think women are after the authority. I think they’re after the blessings and are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood.” (http://youtu.be/pQbFwbPcr-g) It is apparent that we need to express ourselves in a more public way—agitating faithfully—in order for our leaders to understand that we want both the blessings and the authority of the priesthood and that we are not happy being excluded. As we publicly break cultural taboos that silence women, we believe more women will find the courage to honestly express their righteous desire to participate fully with men in all aspects of church governance, service and sacred ordinances.
Aren’t you asking for too much too soon?
Although Ordain Women was organized as a group in the spring of 2013, many of its participants have written and spoken about this issue for decades. They also have thought seriously about what constitutes appropriate religious, as opposed to political, action. From our perspective, this action is not precipitous. Rather, it is a long-awaited continuation of our years of faith-affirming service to the LDS Church. In his letter from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King wrote, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” How long must women wait for our faith to reflect the equity we believe is fundamental to Mormon theology?
I’m afraid to participate with you. Do you anticipate disciplinary action?
We cannot predict the response of individual church leaders. Many of our local leaders have been supportive. Others have not. We believe our actions are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the LDS Church. We have informed church leaders of our intentions and have sought a block of group tickets through appropriate channels. Some of us have acquired individual tickets through our local priesthood leaders. We have worked with the government of Salt Lake City to obtain the appropriate permits. Though our action is not a protest, we have applied for and been granted a “free speech” permit. The city of Salt Lake requires it of any large group gathering in public spaces, such as City Creek Park and the sidewalks of North Temple Street. We recognize that there might be social or personal costs to participants due to the disapproval of loved ones. Only you can weigh your circumstances and concerns and decide if this is the right thing for you to do.
How will you get tickets for the priesthood session?
Women within our group have requested tickets from local leaders and from LDS Church headquarters. If these requests are not granted, we will wait in the stand-by line.
What if you are barred from attending the priesthood session?
If we are not permitted to attend, we will return to City Creek Park to listen to the priesthood session on our electronic devices, talk about our experience, sing, and pray for the equality of women in our church.
If I can’t attend, but want to help, what can I do?
Pray and fast for us. Pray and fast for church leaders to receive revelation that will lift the ban on women’s ordination. Continue the conversation by discussing your thoughts and feelings with friends, family, and members of your local congregations. Support us on your personal Facebook pages, blogs and twitter accounts. Add your profile to ours at Ordainwomen.org.
Are other actions happening the same night in other locations?
Our hope is that all who are able to join us in Salt Lake City will seriously consider doing so. We need your support. Some women who are unable to join us have decided to attend the priesthood session in their local stakes. While we welcome such initiatives as an important act of solidarity, we are not coordinating these efforts.
What if church leaders do not respond as you would hope?
Ordain Women will remain intact. We will continue to seek ordination through faith-affirming action and discussion. We plan to move forward in thoughtful, creative and courageous ways.