Posted by on May 3, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Ordain Women’s Nancy Ross surveyed participants in the April 5th priesthood session action.  Given the widely varying views expressed online, mostly by those who were not there, we thought we would publish more of the first-hand experiences of those who were.  We excerpted several accounts from the survey, both by those who participated in person and by proxy, and invited participants from our profile page to add their comments to those already submitted.  This is the second of two Commentary posts. LWS

It was overwhelming, heartbreaking and hard. But I also felt such sweet confirmation in the rightness of it.

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I was amazed at how many women and men were there, much larger group than I thought would be there. The surroundings were calm and respectful, so were we as a group.

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I experienced an overwhelming sense of excitement and calm throughout the planning and during the event. I was so impressed by the way our attendees carried themselves with dignity and grace. I heard many beautiful testimonies shared at the door of the Tabernacle.

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I loved meeting sisters who came to the event. I was scared to do it, but I’m glad I did. Nothing will ever change, if people don’t speak up, and I was glad to speak up by participating in this action. It was also great to see that there were so many people there! I felt supported in my thoughts and feelings about the priesthood.

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I was excited to attend this event. I’ve been extremely vocal about my support for women’s ordination and the desperate need for open discussion and change [regarding] women’s roles in the Church. During the experience, I was buoyed up by all the people who attended. Walking past the … protestors who screamed in my face that I was a Jezebel and needed to learn how to submit was pretty difficult. (As crazy as those protesters with the signs were, I’ve been called worse from active LDS members online.) The actual physical rejection at the door was the hardest part. To be told I could stand two feet to the left and listen to the priesthood session, but I would be barred from taking two steps to the right, through the doorway, was really hard to hear.

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I volunteered as a line manager, and watched in awe as the line of women and men stretched from behind the Church Office Building, past the reflecting pool, and through the gates. I was overwhelmed at the number of supporters who came to petition our leaders for further revelation. I was also very touched by the kindness of a man who approached people in line and offered newly purchased towels to help provide warmth after the rain and hail.

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I submitted my name a week ago but wasn’t sure if anyone was taking it to OW. I followed the event via Twitter and Facebook and was humbled and proud of the women and men there. I got an email last night from the sister who [carried] my name, and that had me in tears, knowing that I was there in some small way. Thousands of miles away across ocean, my voice was being shared thanks to sisters I will probably never meet. I do a lot of family history work in the temple, and for the first time, I felt a little of what my faraway, long gone ancestors must feel when someone takes their name through. I felt linked in a small but precious way to my American sisters in the gospel. I’m grateful I could participate.

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The Salt Lake Police … directed us to cross the intersection from the park to Temple Square … There were loud honks … offensive gestures out of rolled down windows and shouted insults and jeers [from cars filled with people in their Sunday best]. From one I heard … “Get out of the street. Get out of the Church!” How would Christ react to us? What would He say to us?

The hail started coming down just as we entered the grounds by the Church Office Building. As we walked, there were women talking about their pioneer heritage—that no matter the hardships, the cold, the rain or the snow, [their ancestors] persevered. I’m a convert; I have no pioneer heritage. But this helped me understand the hardships of the pioneers and their quest for equality and validation in their religious beliefs. The hail continued to fall, and I, without a coat or umbrella, started getting cold, wet, and a bit miserable. But all I could think was, “If this doesn’t show my will and [desire] for the hard work and dedication of the priesthood, I don’t know what will.”…

I kept moving and took my place in the stand by line. Women and men were lining up behind me, and the line was making its way around the Tabernacle. There were a few men in line with us who were not a part of Ordain Women. They were chatting with some people in front of me, when the younger man noticed that a female usher was quietly leading a handful of men to another entrance.

At last, I was at the front of the line … standing in front of [church PA spokeswoman] Kim Farah. She introduced herself and noticed was that I was soaking wet. … We chatted for a moment, and I asked for the opportunity to show my willingness and dedication to serve my fellow sisters and brothers in ways I have never been able to do, because I am a woman. I asked for the opportunity to bless my family and bless my home with the power and authority of God. She smiled, politely gave the reasons why women are not ordained, and encouraged me to watch the General Women’s meeting, if I had not yet seen it. I told her that I had and that I appreciated the small steps the Church has taken.

*Before I left, I asked her one more question. I asked her … [if] non-member males or male members who have not yet been ordained [were] allowed into the meeting? She said [they were]. I pressed a little harder: “Even though they do not hold the Priesthood, they are still admitted?” She again answered [that they were]—that it was part of their instruction as men in the Church, similar to how women have the Women’s Meeting, even if they are not members. I then said, “Well, that is unfortunate. I could understand being barred from the meeting, if it were a matter of not holding the priesthood, because then the man who lives next door to me would also be denied entrance. But it is unfortunate that my only disqualifying trait is that I am a woman.” I thanked her, and I gave her a hug, and I started walking away. Before I [left], however, I paused at the closed door of the Tabernacle, and I touched the door. I could feel the faint vibrations from the activity inside, and I said a very quick prayer of thanks. And then I walked away.

It [is] important for people to know what had happened from the eyes of people who lived it.

That night, I saw … the Church [PA] statement about the event… claiming that we refused to leave when asked, among other things. I was so hurt that the story was being told like this. … I was never told by a Church employee to leave. In the end … the fact that the Church issued this misleading statement hurt me more than anything else over the weekend.

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I did not anticipate being allowed into the Tabernacle. On my way to City Creek Park, I was harassed by street protesters. While waiting with the OW women, I felt the spirit more strongly than I have in a year or more. Though I anticipated [being] rejected, I was deeply saddened by it. Knock, [we are told,] and it shall be opened unto you. We are knocking, [but] the door remains shut.

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[Being] socially engaged online to explain my thought process [with regard to Ordain Women] … was difficult as I have had a lot of negative reactions from people suggesting that I leave the Church. During the event, I felt such solidarity and belonging and sisterhood. I felt the spirit confirm that what I was doing was right. Being turned away at the door was crushing, but I wasn’t going to walk away and not request a seat, even though I knew I would be denied.

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It was a profoundly beautiful experience. I thanked [Church PA spokeswoman] Kim Farah for letting us stand in line. She told me she wanted me to feel welcome and heard. She gave me a hug, and we shared a quick laugh. I left Temple Square with a feeling of hope. After I read [Church PA spokesman] Cody Craynor’s inaccurate portrayal of the day’s events, I feel betrayed …

Thank you for giving me courage with your courage. We will see gender equality in the Church one day, and someday I will tell my granddaughters, “Look what my friends and I did.” I would never have forgiven myself, if I wasn’t a part of this.

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I came to support a friend and cause. I loved the feelings of love, encouragement, and hope. Every word spoken was genuine and heartfelt. There was no “defiance” or “disrespect” as many people tend to post about OW. I am proud to support equality.

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My experience has been as an ally supporter of my wife. … My wife has been part of Feminist Mormon Housewives for more than two years. Through that experience, we have come to support OW. We contributed financially to the October action and sent in proxy cards. The Church response to the ticket request for this April led us to feel the need to come in person. I had a very moving experience this year. It was inspiring to hear the speeches at City Creek Park, and then to walk with the women to Temple Square bolstered my feelings that we were doing the right. I was overwhelmed as we approached our spot in the line around the Tabernacle. We kept walking and walking past OW supporters, and it truly was heartwarming to see so many people.

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Please don’t give up. I am also part of a minority. … I appreciate the men and women of this group standing up for their rights. I don’t want my boys to grow up and be okay with the inequality of women—or other men for that matter. Thank you for having the courage to weather the storm.

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I attended the afternoon session of conference with my family on Saturday… I didn’t make it to City Creek Park in time, so I waited by the reflecting pool to join everyone, and because of that, I was not counted in the total for those who attended. I stood there without a coat when it started hailing, but I waited anyway. It was really uncomfortable, and I was on the verge of tears when I decided to give up and call my parents to come get me. Just as I had made this decision, I saw all these amazing women walking down the hill, and I nearly cried with joy. I ran and joined up near the front of the line behind Kate and Hannah, so I was one of the first people to be denied. The [church PA spokeswoman] was extremely respectful, but it was frustrating that my questions could not be answered.

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I was a little nervous because of the Church’s harsh and negative publicity beforehand, but I went anyway, and it was a pleasant experience. I was at the back of the line and so was unaware of some of the difficulties leaders faced in the front … I was unaware that the gate to Temple Square was closed against us. That is upsetting.

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Keep fighting the good fight. By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. I hope that I can have the courage to continue to stand up for this cause!

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It was so beautiful to talk to women and men who felt as I did, to join as sisters in faith and compassion. We use the term “sisters” in the Church quite often, but I truly felt a wonderful sisterhood. Even more striking were the wonderful men who joined with us. I was so inspired by them, and I think that they provided an example that men and women could work effectively together.

But it was also heartbreaking. Although I had hope that we would be admitted, I expected that we wouldn’t. What I didn’t expect was how difficult it would be for me to be excluded. It just tore my heart into pieces.

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Leading up to the event, I was very nervous. I almost decided not to come. During the event, it was wonderful to talk to so many wonderful women and men who are asking for such a small thing—[to be admitted]. I gained some wonderful new friends, my line-sisters, who were kindred spirits. It was so sad to be told that the doors of the Tabernacle would be closed to me. But I will always remember the spirit of sisterhood and love.

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My most memorable moment was walking at the head of the line … as the wind blew and the hail pelted us. … I have come to love the people I associate with in OW very much. They are a brave, caring and committed group.

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I was excited about the chance to do this again and didn’t think that it would be much different than it was in October, so I was horrified when I read the Church’s statement asking us not to go on Temple Square. I still can’t understand how they see us as outside protestors when the group is so clearly made up of people who care deeply about the Church. During the event, I was really happy with how peaceful and reverent it was, and then was even more horrified when I heard the Church’s statement about the action. I had felt welcome on Temple Square and had thought of the action as an important spiritual experience. … I hope that we can continue to show Church leaders that we are members of the Church who love and care about it, but also want to see it change for the better.

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The comments on Facebook are incredibly depressing. Leading up to, during and after, they have been vitriolic and plain mean. The calls to leave the Church are hard for me as I’m struggling to stay.

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I loved walking with the mass of people standing in line … [and] seeing all the men who support [Ordain Women] too. I was also surprised at the level of support I received online after I posted a picture and included the Ordain Women hashtag. I got a lot more likes than I’m used to, and even had a good conversation with someone in the comments section. I have not received any negative feedback. If anything, it sparked good conversations with people who had honest questions.

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I have not been able to publicly [join] with OW for several reasons, but my friends and family know of my support. I have been lucky not to have any hate spewed at me leading up to this. As I watched the various social media feeds documenting the event, I felt intense love for my sisters and heartbreak at what my religion is doing [to] them.

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This was my second round. I felt less anxious, but [I was] reluctant to be heartbroken and sad again. I feel like the Church is pushing me away, but I feel stronger spiritually than I have ever been.

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I did not attend in person, but my feelings ranged from complete fear for my brothers and sisters involved … to gratitude for those participating … to overwhelming love to those who showed such gentle kindness in response to those participating, to, finally, deep regret for not going to Temple Square myself. … Thank you, Ordain Women, for being so courageous, especially for those of us who were not.

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This year, I served as a line manager. … I kept an eye out for stragglers and got them connected with the line, then walked with the group to the OW standby line … I waited until the line only had a dozen people waiting before I … asked to be admitted. [Church PA spokeswoman] Kim Farah was gracious, and I asked her who she would be talking to about her experience at the Tabernacle doors. She said she would be sharing our sentiments with leadership. We shook hands and got our hugs from Lorie Winder, who was standing at the standby line exit to comfort and acknowledge everyone as they exited. … This year’s action took more out of me than October’s; I’m still recovering from the emotional strain of being shut out of a general conference meeting, [but] I feel buoyed by the swelling number of participants and the growing support for ordaining Mormon women.

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The woman who had my proxy card emailed me a picture of her holding the card. That became an emotional moment of sisterhood for me!

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I kept this secret until about 30 minutes before I got into the car and left for the event. I felt empowered and supported during the walk … [and that] I was doing the right thing.

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The Monday when the PA department released their statement regarding OW prior to conference was trying. I had friends who posted it on email, basically echoing the [statement] and sending messages summed up as, “Get back in line, women!” My brother ended up emailing me asking me what I thought, and I was able to share my beliefs and struggles with him, which he appreciated. [He] now better understands OW.

I decided after that Monday that I had to participate somehow. I did what I could–donated and sent a proxy card—because I was unable to fly out and attend. I followed [on] Facebook and Twitter during the event, while I watched the priesthood session at home … Throughout these few weeks, I have always tried to respond to things I see on Facebook [in order] to help people better understand the need for inclusion and love. … The support I gave and received as part of OW as we strive to do what we feel is right, really was a remarkable experience.

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It was difficult again to decide to go. There is so much pressure and assumption from friends and families about what it means to be involved with OW. But I am again so grateful I attended. I met some wonderful women and heard their stories and hugged them. It was beautiful, and heartbreaking, and uplifting.

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Overall, my experience was positive. A few people made hurtful comments to me before, during, and after the action, but I felt strong and happy as I acted on faith and spoke my truth.

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The [Church’s] Newsroom/PR statement was very disappointing and very confusing, as it described a hostile environment that was nothing like the warm, loving reception I experienced and witnessed.

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I originally wasn’t planning on carrying any [proxy] cards. I didn’t in October, and the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind this time. I suppose I was acting under the “someone else will do it” mindset—though it was not conscience.

While waiting for everyone to gather, I saw a message a Facebook friend posted asking if I would carry her name. She had not had a chance to submit a request officially … I gladly obliged. Not much later I saw another request in the FMH group. …I told her I would carry her name as well.

During this time Joanna, who was in charge of the proxy cards, mentioned how many she still needed to give out. Not wanting these other supporters to be left out, I asked for a couple more, bringing my total to four.

I placed the cards in my interior breast pocket, since I didn’t want them damaged by the weather, and kept them there until it was my turn to “knock.” As I waited for my turn, I realized I wanted to do more than just carry these names. I wanted the gatekeeper, [Church PA spokeswoman Kim Farah], to know it was not just me she was turning away. So when I approached her, I had the names fanned out for her to read. When I gave Kim my name, I also named the four sisters whom I carried with me. I told her that it was not just for myself that I was here, but also for these four other women. I wanted their voices to be heard as well. I wanted her to understand that they were more than just names on slips of paper— these were real women, women who were hurting and asking for recognition in the Church and community they loved.

Even when the expected answer came, I still felt that I had accomplished something. Kim had acknowledged the women whose names I carried. Even though she had to turn us away, she knew it was not just me she was sending away. [We were] five women. …

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I felt some reservations since I am not an active member, but [I] felt it was important to stand in solidarity with those who are looking for equality. During the event, I felt sadness watching women who sincerely believe the LDS Church to be true and only want access to the priesthood being turned away in tears.

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I was nervous, then sad, and now I’m just relieved that it was not as scary or sad as it could have been. It was wonderful to meet so many lovely women, and I was inspired by what was said and done.

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I almost cried asking to go in; it was very emotional for me. I felt very rejected and less-than. I also was proud to be there and to ask to be let in.

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I knew that it was unlikely women would be admitted, but I hoped that they would be. Knowing someone carried my name gave me chills. The PR statement that was full of such distortion and spin has broken me. I expected push back from members but that the church [PA spokespeople] would say what they have has made me so disappointed.

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When the letter from [Church PA spokeswoman] Sister Moody came out, I started looking at airfares to see if I could get there, but flights were just too expensive. Saturday night I consistently checked Facebook updates to see what was happening. It was pretty heartbreaking. … I don’t plan to leave the Church, ever, but [the Church PA statement] makes it harder to stay. I’m glad there was a part of me there with you all.

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I was disheartened by members’ judgments, accusations and harshness. They didn’t know these women but judged their testimonies, their commitment and their actual presence. I began to realize how much having the ability to give priesthood blessings when I was active would have benefited my kids and me. Before his death, my husband only got active to bless and baptize the kids. … Promises of blessings to me or the kids often went unfulfilled, and my only access was to call loving, but unfamiliar, leaders. I’d be required to explain what we needed … So I went without the priesthood for a really long time. As I watch people’s reactions unfold, honestly, I realize I don’t think I could ever return to church. The members may not be the gospel… But they are the Church… and by majority, it seems clear they have no place for me unless I fit into a box.

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I was excited and nervous about how the event would go this time. Because I was only [there through] a proxy card, [my] feelings were not as intense during the actual event. The photos shared were very emotional. I feel sad that women are turned away. I’m glad to be part of this push for equality, though.

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I knew what would happen but am hopeful our efforts and heart-felt actions will move society forward even a little. We have so many questions that need answers, and they will only be answered if we ask and keep asking.

Thank you all for all you are trying to do and be. On behalf of myself, for my own questions, and my daughter, for her future, we thank you!

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I didn’t attend the event in person; I just submitted my proxy name online, and then [on] Saturday, I went to the priesthood session in my local ward without having heard anything about what happened in Salt Lake. … When I got out of the session, I went home and read Facebook and blogs … to get all the news and to process it. I was disappointed that the women weren’t admitted, but other than that, I thought the event appeared to be a big win in terms of gathering more people to the cause, and showing again what wonderful, respectful, reasonable people all y’all are.

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I would love to see total equality. My family used to be active members, but during the past two years, we’ve lost our desire to attend church. The sole reason is inequality. … Hopefully one day that will change.

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On a personal level, I was completely confident from start to finish. I knew that I was doing as my Heavenly Parents directed.

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I felt like the action, itself, was mostly positive. I felt peaceful and loved standing in line with my sister, and although it was difficult to be turned away, I thought [Church PA spokeswoman] Kim Farah was gracious and kind.

However, the [Church’s PA] statement in response broke my heart. I felt they intentionally mischaracterized those who participated and essentially invited other members to be unkind to us.

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I was hesitant about seeing this action repeated only 6 months [later] … but as was true the first time around, it was empowering to witness women claiming their relationship with Deity and standing at the gates to worship in full fellowship

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I was proud to have my name carried. Up to this conference, I had been more ambivalent and less willing to step out.

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It was good to share that day with those who could not be there themselves. Even though they were not physically present, their voices were heard. [It was] a wondrous privilege to be able to be their voice that day.

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