As a new missionary in Japan, I first heard the saying: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” I naively thought that this saying uniquely applied to Japanese culture, but standing there in my white shirt and dark suit, I failed to see the hammers that smash away at nonconformity in my own Mormon culture. Among these hammers are claims of authority, threats, shame, shunning and isolation. Defying these hammers takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength. From April 1st to April 4th, I was privileged to stand with four women who serve on the Ordain Women Executive Board. I stood in front of the Church Administration Building with Joanna Smith, Bryndis Roberts, Debra Jensen, and Lorie Winder. We also had other strong supporters stop by and spent time with us. I was able to see first-hand strength and courage that is all too rare in our conformist culture.
The Church Administration Building is the center of power in the LDS Church. It contains the offices of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As you can see in the pictures accompanying this post, we spent four days dead center in front of this building, with the Ordain Women banner draped over our table. Church leaders refused to take the hundreds of postcards, which our group, lead by Debra Jensen, attempted to deliver the first day we stood.
The postcards contained messages from supporters, who believe that women are “Ready to Witness.” They asked that women be able to witness baptisms, baby blessings, sealings, and highly personal interviews by male leaders of women and girls. Prior to our delivery attempt Friday morning, Debra Jensen sent a letter informing church leaders that a refusal to accept the postcards would result in our standing in front of their building until Monday morning when we would again try. Despite claims that the building was empty, we frequently saw drapes and blinds part, and eyes briefly stare out at us. We even received a friendly wave from a woman parting the drapes at the west end of the first floor. Monday morning, Bryndis Roberts lead our group up the stairs again, to try to deliver the postcards. Once again we were refused.
We also attempted delivery at the Relief Society building. Initially, we were asked if we would like to meet with Relief Society leaders. But, once the staff discovered we were with Ordain Women, we were told that everyone was out of town. The contrast was striking between the brave women standing in front to the seat of Mormon power and leaders, who hide behind layers of security, peek through the blinds in their offices, or who direct their staff to claim that they are suddenly out of town.
The price I have paid for my involvement in Ordain Women has been relatively small. I have a supportive family, and church leaders who leave me alone. Male privilege seems to repel most personal attacks. But, this is not the experience of many Ordain Women leaders and supporters. Many have felt the full force of the conformity hammers in their lives. This is my tribute to all in Ordain Women who have paid the price for doing what is right. They stand strong for female ordination and equality in the Church. I admire the strength and bravery I see every day in Ordain Women. I am proud to be a part of this organization.