It’s been a year since Ordain Women launched its website on March 17, 2013. We chose the date for obvious reasons—it was also the anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society. In anticipation, a handful of us called, emailed, begged and prodded friends and family members to consider going public—photos, names, words and all—on the need for the ordination of women in the LDS Church. We knew there were many in the Mormon feminist community who had thought seriously about women and priesthood—some for many years, others more recently—and what going public might mean. Hundreds had even signed the All Are Alike unto God document calling on church leaders to “thoughtfully consider and earnestly pray” about the ordination of women. But it’s quite another thing to lay bare your conviction and commit to public action, particularly in a community that tends to confuse questioning with faithlessness. It proved to be startlingly compelling.
As the first Ordain Women profiles showed up in our inboxes, we were relieved, yes, but more than that, we were deeply touched by the courage, faith, trust, thoughtfulness and sincerity of the stories we read. One year, 250 profiles and well over half a million page views later, we still are. How could we not be?
Mindy, a mother who believes her “children’s ability to serve their God is not defined by their genders,” who longs for “a future where they serve God side by side in faith in all capacities; leading, blessing, baptizing, nurturing, and healing through the power of the Priesthood.”
Maggie, a returned missionary with “no satisfying answers” for the investigators she taught who “asked why women couldn’t hold the priesthood.”
Ellen, a psychologist, Primary president and grandmother of 10, who feels “disaffected and sad” that she “cannot participate fully in the Church” because she is a woman.
Jamie, a father, life-long member of the Church and former counselor in a bishopric whose conscience tells him “that the ordination of women is simply the right thing to do.”
Mary Ellen, named for her Mormon pioneer great-grandmother, who in graduate school “met women pastors, women professors, women studying to become ministers, women providing pastoral care and counseling to their congregations … women engaged in both rigorous theological inquiry and the practical application of gospel principles … women leading their flocks, guiding worship services, teaching parishioners, and rendering compassionate service” and longed to serve her “religious community the way they served theirs.”
Tinesha, a BYU student, who says, “Being a Latter-day Saint has brought so much joy to my life, yet the inequality I’ve seen is so persistent and so apparent.”
Christian, a scientist, who in his “darkest spiritual times,” sought “voices of wisdom and compassion,” often belonging to women, and “hungered for those voices to come in the form of priesthood blessings,” particularly knowing that “some of these women … hungered to have the ability to serve this way as well.”
Marina, a physician, who finds “peace and comfort from our scriptures and doctrines,” and yet is “dismayed that our church does not take full advantage of all of the talents that each member … has to offer because it restricts priesthood authority and the positions that require it to men.”
Emily, a Cubmaster with a master’s degree in divinity, whose “heart aches” because she knows “God loves His daughters and trusts us to act in His name,” but asks, “Why doesn’t my church?”
Nancy, a bio ethicist, Primary pianist and grandmother, who observes that we “are quick to sympathize with what we see as oppression of women in other circumstances and in other religions, but we don’t always recognize it in our own lives … [and] don’t understand that being deprived of the opportunity [to be ordained] is an act of oppression.”
Chandler, a seminary teacher, who, while on a mission in the developing world, saw having adequate leadership in branches as a major “barrier to the growth of the Church … even though these branches were full of capable, worthy women,” and believes that “the restoration of all things will include the ordination of women.”
When we started this whole enterprise, we knew that the very idea of women’s ordination had to enter the realm of the thinkable and the familiar before it could enter the realm of the possible.
With this in mind, Ordain Women:
- Created an online public space where Mormons can articulate their support for women’s ordination
- Sponsored three public, faith-affirming direct actions:
- Our launch event during the priesthood session on April 6, 2013
- “Equal in Faith,” an interfaith fast with hundreds of Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Lutheran, and Buddhist women as well as those of other faiths joining together on August 26, 2013, both in person and virtually, to highlight the need for gender justice in religion
- Our priesthood session action, where over 200 women and their male allies gathered at Temple Square on October 5, 2013, and asked in faith for women to be admitted to the priesthood session of general conference and for church leaders to consider the ordination of women
- Raised thousands of dollars to help women travel to Salt Lake City to attend our October 5, 2013, and our forthcoming April 5, 2014, priesthood session actions
- Received extensive coverage through the New York Times, Al Jazeera, USA Today, The Guardian, Huffington Post, NPR, and many other national and international outlets as well as all major Utah media outlets, including the Deseret News
As a result, many faithful Mormons who hadn’t really thought about the ordination of women, not only began to consider it, but embrace it.
Too, we’ve welcomed several recent Church initiatives that indicate our leaders are listening, as thoughtful leaders do, and responding positively to the desire of the women they serve for a more inclusive community of faith, including:
- The lowering of the age requirement for women missionaries
- Women offering prayers in general conference
- The announcement of two General Women’s Meetings per year
- The availability of the priesthood session to be heard by all through live streaming, including women
- An greater emphasis on gender-inclusive local councils
We hope and pray more will follow.
As Ordain Women enters its second year, our profiles remain foundational to our efforts. Please revisit our profile pages and consider submitting your own. Then join us in Salt Lake City on April 5th.