Why are women seeking to attend the Priesthood Session?
We are demonstrating our desire for Priesthood office and asking Church leaders to prayerfully consider the ordination of women.
What do you hope to achieve?
We hope that when our leaders see us at the Priesthood Session, they will consider our untapped potential. Attending the Priesthood Session demonstrates our willingness to perform Priesthood duties. Many of us are traveling to Salt Lake City from other states and countries, demonstrating our fervent hope for direction from God regarding the extension of Priesthood ordination to all worthy members of the Church.
What exactly is going to happen? What will you do?
On Saturday, October 5th, 2013, at 4:00 p.m., we will meet at City Creek Park (110 N. State Street, Salt Lake City) to gather, pray, and sing. Then we will walk to the Conference Center together. We hope to be admitted and attend the session. If we are admitted, we will celebrate this historic event by attending Priesthood Session together. Whether or not we are admitted to the Priesthood Session, we will reconvene at City Creek Park.
You call this a faith-affirming strategic action. How is this different from a political action?
Our understanding of the gospel is that the heavens are not closed. “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” (Article of Faith 9). We believe that the expansion of Priesthood keys must come from God through revelation to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The role of Church members 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 Christ, 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 belief in God and our faith in the Church that compel us to bold, faith-affirming 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 dignity befitting Priesthood office. We plan to attend the meeting, feel the spirit, and hear the words of our leaders. We do not wish 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:
- Anti-church diatribes will not be tolerated.
- No signs or banners.
- Dress in Sunday best.
- Do not use any deceitful tactics to get into Priesthood Session. Getting tickets from men who have not disclosed that they are sharing tickets with women is unacceptable.
You already have the General Relief Society Meeting. Why aren’t you content with that?
Exclusionary policies around the Priesthood Session concern us. Unlike the other sessions of General Conference and the General Relief Society Meeting, the Priesthood Session is not presented live to the public through Internet, TV and radio. We are saddened by the story of Sister Frances B. Monson’s exclusion from the Priesthood Session. “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 get 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 Relief Society Meeting. Moreover, the General Relief Society Meeting is not one of the five sessions of semi-annual General Conference, but rather an annual meeting set apart from General Conference.
Why are you advocating in public?
There seems to be a perception among church leadership that Mormon women are happy and content in their given roles in the Church. In response to a question during a televised 1997 interview about whether the rules banning women from the Priesthood could change, President Gordon B. Hinckley replied, “He could change them, yes. If He were to change them, that’s the only way it would happen.” 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).
Recently, our current General Relief Society President, Sister Linda K. Burton, repeated this assumption, saying, “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 bold and public way—agitating faithfully—in order for our leaders to understand that we do want Priesthood authority 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 discuss their righteous desires to participate fully in the Priesthood with other members, including Church leaders.
Aren’t you asking for too much too soon?
Although Ordain Women only organized as a group in the spring of 2013, many of its participants have written and spoken about this issue for years and even decades. We have thought seriously about what constitutes appropriate religious, as opposed to political, action. From our perspective, this action is not precipitous. As Martin Luther King wrote from Birmingham Jail, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” How long must women wait for our faith to reflect the equity fundamental to Mormon theology.
I’m afraid to come. Are you? And do you anticipate disciplinary action?
We cannot predict the response of various Church leaders. However, we do not feel our actions are contrary to the gospel of Christ or the doctrines of the Church. We have informed Church leaders of our intentions and have sought tickets through appropriate channels. We have worked with the government of Salt Lake City to obtain the appropriate permits. Our action is not a protest, and we have applied for and been granted a “free speech” permit because 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 because of disapproval from loved ones. Only you can weigh your personal concerns and decide if this is the right thing for you to do.
How will you get tickets for Priesthood Session?
Women within our group have requested tickets from local leaders and from Church Headquarters. If these requests are not granted, we will wait in the stand-by line.
What if you are barred from attending Priesthood Session?
If we are not permitted to attend, we will return to the park to 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 our leaders to receive revelation. Pray and fast for further light and knowledge from the Lord. Continue the conversation by discussing your thoughts and feelings with friends, family, and 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?
Some women who are unable to come to Salt Lake City have decided to attend the Priesthood Session in their local stakes. This action is important to them as an act of solidarity, but 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 continued action and discussion. We plan to move forward in creative, faithful, and courageous ways.