Today, Sunday, 17 March 2013, is the 171st anniversary of the establishment of the first Relief Society. In the Relief Society minutes, we read that Joseph Smith said that the Relief Society would be a “Kingdom of Priests.” He also literally ordained its first female leaders. In the same minutes, Emma Smith is described as being set apart but not ordained, with an explanation by Joseph Smith that Emma had already been ordained and therefore did not need to be ordained again, but merely set apart for this particular calling. Joseph Smith described the Relief Society as one that would be analogous to the male priesthood organization.
We wish to mark this significant day in history with our own act, and the founding of another women’s organization: Ordain Women.
As a Mormon missionary I experienced intimately, and in such a powerful way, the capacity of women to serve one another and to administer to one another in time of need.
I also saw the complications of excluding 50 percent of the population from leadership roles in areas where faithful Mormon men were few and far between. New women converts were often confused about the strict gender roles in the church that were not part of the missionary discussions, but that they learned of only after being baptized.
As a servant of the Lord for those 18 months, I began to get a glimpse of the importance and sacred power the priesthood represents. I came to know that women can call on God and witness miracles. I also began to wonder why, as a daughter of God, I was excluded from the blessings and responsibilities of holding that power.
In the years since my return, I have been able to see that the priesthood is not the same as being male. It is the power of God, separate and apart from gender.
In a church that cherishes the value of restoration, we hope to encourage our leaders to restore women to their rightful place as leaders and priesthood holders. Ordain Women is committed to making our faith a place where we can live up to our full divine potential, and we believe that the only way women will be able to have genuine equality and live up to this potential is by being able to be ordained to the priesthood.
Like our foremothers, we are women of faith and action. We ask the brethren to bring to fruition our beloved prophet Joseph Smith’s original vision for the Relief Society sisters to over 7 million female members of the church today. We ask that women be ordained and participate fully in all levels of service within the church. We know the church will be blessed by fully utilizing the service of all worthy members, regardless of gender.
Join us, as equality missionaries, in making our plea heard.