Posted by on Apr 27, 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 first of two Commentary posts. LWS

 

I felt nervous before [April 5th] but had support from my family … and [I feel] prepared for what the next steps in the conversation are.

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My husband came with me as a support—he has been exceptionally supportive through all of my faith journey—so it was only natural that he come with me to this event. I was very nervous on the drive to the event. For the previous 48 hours, I had the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints” stuck in my head. It is one of my favorites . . . I told my husband on the drive to the park that I couldn’t get the song out of my head, but that I liked having “but with joy, wend your way” as my personal mantra for this event. When we got to the park and the opening song was “Come, Come Ye Saints,” I looked over at him and we both smiled—it was like our Heavenly Parents were helping me find courage. A tangible peace fell over me as we sang, and continued with me through the whole event.

Actually asking for a ticket and then being rejected was surprisingly painful. I knew that they were going to say no, but walking away from the line after that rejection felt like I was being rejected by a parent. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of sorrow and pain. … I burst into tears when I was embraced by one of the Ordain Women leaders. She asked, “Are you okay?” and I cried, “No, no I’m not.”

But the beautiful part of this moment was that I wasn’t alone in my sorrow. I was surrounded by women just like me, and they embraced both my body and my heart. We were mourning together, and as sad as that sounds, it was actually very healing for me.

As my husband and I walked to our car…, we were both overwhelmed by the spirituality of the experience. My husband was surprised by the number of men present, and seeing all the other men made him more comfortable with the idea that he could support Ordain Women. I was overcome with the feeling of companionship, not just with the women there, but with our foremothers. I felt like they walked with me, stood in line with me, mourned with me.

I am pregnant with our second child, and we find out in the next few weeks the gender of the baby. Before this event, I was scared of having a daughter. The idea of raising a daughter in a church where she would be a second class citizen terrified me. But after the event, I feel confident that we are making the Church better. If this baby is a girl, she will grow up in a more egalitarian church than I did. Ultimately, that is why my husband and I attended. We went for our kids, both our sons and our daughters. They deserve to grow up in a church that allows people to use their God-given gifts whether or not those gifts line up with … strict gender roles.

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I carried two names on April 5. I took the names, thinking it was an easy service to do for women who were unable to come to the priesthood session with us in person. But once I read the messages on the two cards, I realized these two women’s messages were more of a service to me.

I had lined up with Ordain Women in October as well. That was an exciting and invigorating experience for me—to gather with so many sisters who felt the same way I did. After so many years feeling alone at church, I finally felt like I’d found my home. But after going public with my views—lining up and putting up a profile last October—I spent the next six months hearing my views attacked from people close to me. I was already exhausted when I showed up at City Creek Park to join my sisters on April 5th.

So my heart swelled with gratitude to read the messages of support from the sisters whose names I carried. [One] card … read, “God be with you, my sister.” [The other] card read, “I wish I could be there with all of you on this historic day. Keep knocking at the door and it will open.” When I read these cards, I cried with relief. I had been feeling that we in line were completely alone within the Church, judged and mocked on all sides. But reading these cards reminded me that there were more women who wanted to be here with us and whose prayers were with us. Their cards reassured my hope that there are many, many more men and women within the Church who support us but aren’t yet able to join our numbers.

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I hated the idea of serving a mission, because it was presented to me as an opportunity to … attract a worthy husband. I didn’t feel comfortable with that aspect of the Church—defining young women’s purpose as only preparing themselves … for marriage. I have so much more to offer than that! After studying for definitions of “priestess” and looking hard (and unsuccessfully) for scriptural evidence that women doctrinally could never hold the priesthood, I realized that we could be facing new opportunities and priesthood responsibilities in my lifetime. I need to prepare! I joined Ordain Women, and I turned in my papers.

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About two weeks before the event, I had lunch with a group of Mormon feminists who are across the spectrum [in] their comfort level with Ordain Women. It was wonderful to discuss with them their perspectives and views on women in the Church. It also made me commit more strongly to attending [the April 5th action] for several reasons: First, I agree wholeheartedly with the aims of Ordain Women, and second, even if I didn’t agree … I believe there has been more movement in the Church as a result of OW, because we haven’t backed down or disappeared. There is … something concrete leaders can look at to realize that all is not well in Zion.

As I stood in the line [at the Tabernacle], it felt so right to be a visible representation of someone who wants more and wants better. Without that, I don’t believe there would be any continued movement.

After my experience with the October session, I felt stronger this time and better able to deal with the emotions that came from gathering together. It still hurt to be turned away, but the balm of sisterhood helps.

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After the Saturday action … I received several emails, some from people I don’t know and some from those … I do, telling me that they can’t participate in OW openly, but that they are glad someone was doing something on their behalf.

Now, after the action, I feel tremendous hope for change in the future. I can’t tell you when things will change or what the incremental steps will be, but I have a testimony of continuing revelation, which is a testimony of hope and future change.

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It meant so much to join with my sisters in solidarity on [April 5th]. I felt we were organized and well prepared. I was more nervous this year than last October because of the Church’s letter. But I was also more determined and motivated to participate. … I eventually had the opportunity to ask [Church PA spokesperson] Kim Farah for admittance. I asked whether there was room for me to simply watch on the screen in the Tabernacle. She told me I couldn’t attend, because it was for men only at this time. She said she was there to listen to us. I gave her a hug and thanked her … I was so uplifted and encouraged by my experience. Then the Church released their PR statement. I am crushed and heartbroken. … They said I refused to leave and was divisive. … I was never asked to leave. I even talked to three ushers personally and was not asked to leave once. I’m hurt … but I’m surer of my involvement with OW than ever.

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The event itself was lovely. It felt so wonderful to be surrounded by so many women and men who support equality within the church. I attended in October, so I knew what to expect, but I was just as crushed and saddened when I was turned away.

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[OW was] wonderful about working with me to grant funding so that I could attend. I ended up doing two very long layovers, and was only in Salt Lake for … 18 hours, but it was one hundred percent worth it. … I just felt so charged and inspired. To put it in Mormon [terms], I felt the spirit! And then we walked to Temple Square, and there were these protesters screaming at us. [They were saying] things like: “Submit to your husbands!” … when we were waiting to cross [the street.] Then halfway there it began to hail on us. … The hail stopped … and then we went and waited in the standby line outside of the Tabernacle. … They kept directing men somewhere else … and then we asked one by one if we could go in, and this lovely woman who works for the PA department met us and … turned us away, but she listened to each person. She listened to me.

I was feeling really, really good, like, the church is making room—they are listening—and then Sunday morning I woke up and read this press release: “’Despite polite and respectful requests from church leaders not to make Temple Square a place of protest, a mixed group of men and women ignored that request and staged a demonstration outside the Tabernacle on General Conference weekend, refusing to accept ushers’ directions and refusing to leave when asked,’ church spokesman Cody Craynor wrote in an email Saturday evening.”

And that just crushed me. Because I was there, and they did not ask [me] to leave, and [I] did everything they asked [me] to do. … And then there was [Elder] Oaks’ talk that everyone keeps inviting me to listen to, because “it was meant for you!” How interesting that the talk that was meant for me was at the one session from which I am barred. … I am still committed, and I’m still ready to work for this cause I believe in.

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I’m glad I was there. To see the support was moving.

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It was difficult to get to Salt Lake as I am a carless, poor graduate student, but I was only a little late. It was freezing cold, raining and then hailing, but it didn’t matter because I was in the company of some of the most thoughtful, brilliant, good hearted Mormons I know. When I got through the line, I asked the woman if there was room for us inside the tabernacle where they were broadcasting the session. She said no, it was full, and that my meeting was last week. It was more frightening than I had expected it to be, and despite the hymns I had sung in my head all day to prepare for this, I was hurt by the rejection. It is hard to know that there is no room for me among Mormons.

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I [was] on my laptop all night long, following the Facebook conversations and Twitter feeds. In the morning, I [went] to the broadcast of the priesthood session at my local chapel.

This [was] a brutal night. I [watched] my brave sisters ask for entrance, one photo at a time, and I [winced] as the nasty and dismissive comments flooded in from LDS men and women who ought to know better. Tonight, for the first time in my entire feminist experience, I broke down and sobbed. It hurt so much to be turned away, even by proxy. … If it weren’t for President Uchtdorf … I would still be a member. I’d just be a member with my heart in shards, instead of just bruised.

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I’m pretty well connected in independent, progressive Mormonism, so I always love gathering with friends. One terrific experience a few weeks ago was really surprising the people I home teach, who had said something negative about OW. [I told them] that I was a supporter [and] that I’d participated this past October as well, etc. We had a great discussion, and I felt like they really started to consider some things in a new way.

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I loved reading the tweets and seeing the pictures from the women waiting in line; it was incredibly uplifting. The [tweet] about the man who told them they were being heroes for his daughters made me cry.

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I was running on adrenaline all day and couldn’t get anything done, because I was thinking about what might happen. When I arrived at City Creek Park, I couldn’t stop smiling; I felt so happy. I was able to strike up a conversation with a couple of women nearby, and I enjoyed hearing Kate Kelly and the other women speak and pray. It was a very spiritual experience to sing together, walk together, and wait together in line. I felt “right” being there; like I belonged there. The woman who turned us away was very kind, and I very much appreciated the hug afterwards … I was fortunate to meet several long-time Mormon feminists who boosted my confidence and my spirit. It was very positive, even if we were turned away. I did not appreciate coming home to read in the SL Tribune that a Church spokesman had stated that our “divisive actions” were “disappointing” to our “church leaders.” However, regardless of how [he] chose to portray it, I am glad I went, and I feel like I did the right thing standing up for what I believe—[for] what I want for me, my sisters in the gospel, my daughters, [and] my granddaughters …

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I feel like I was part of something important.

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I sort of accidentally “outed” myself as an OW supporter about a month ago, and my family and friends were really upset. I got pretty worn out defending myself and OW for days on end, but I think the discussions are really important. I also received some much appreciated support from unexpected sources. I came even though I had a fever and raging sore throat, because I couldn’t be silent, and I couldn’t let my sisters down. It was very emotional and sad to be turned away, but I was so comforted by the feelings of sisterhood and mutual love among all who participated. I felt proud to walk through the rain and hail. I felt proud to smile at detractors. I felt proud to ask for myself to go in, and I felt deeply honored to walk alongside you all.

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[I’m] frustrated but encouraged as small changes are starting to happen.

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It was wonderful to see people with whom I interacted during the October priesthood session action and then to make several new friends from attendees today. It was also wonderful to meet and interact with online friends from all over the United States. I really enjoyed hearing the experience of other Ordain Women supporters—especially those who recently decided to become involved in supporting Ordain Women. It was exciting to hear from several people who live here in the Salt Lake area who reported feeling somewhat isolated [from family and friends because of] their views about female ordination. These women reported the excitement of seeing and interacting with many other men and women who feel similar to the way they do about female ordination.

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On my way to meet the group at the park, I was yelled at very aggressively by two men holding signs. … One of the men shouted at me, “Eve submitted to Adam! Women submit to men! You don’t know the meaning of the word submit!” and the other yelled that I was not a member of the Church. While walking on Temple Square, I was followed by a man in a transparent yellow poncho, who asked aggressively whether I had a temple recommend. I ignored him … and walked faster. He yelled after me that he bet I didn’t have a recommend, that we were not Mormons, and that we were all liars. When we got to the Tabernacle, I lined up with the other participants around the building and waited for a long while. I chatted with the men and women around me, and then finally reached the front of the line, where a woman greeted me and asked how she could help me. I was with my mom, who asked on our behalf to be let into the priesthood session. The woman shook each of our hands and very kindly said that we were sisters in the gospel and that she loved us, that this was why she was there, but that the meeting for women was last week and we could not be let in.

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Thank you for being a brave voice. I no longer feel alone.

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Coming out in public as being a supporter [of women’s ordination] was not well received by most [of my] friends and family and made it slightly difficult and uncomfortable, but [I] have loved opening people’s eyes to the opportunities that may become available!

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Even if we fail to gain ordination, the movement has been invaluable in bringing to light the issue of equality for women in the Mormon Church. The discussion has been altered forever in a good way. Thanks for all the careful thought and planning!

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