Men and women who hope for women’s ordination in the LDS Church will gather together in regional groups with Ordain Women and attend the General Priesthood Session on October 4, 2014, at local stake centers around the world.
Since Ordain Women will not be requesting tickets for the priesthood session on Temple Square, we trust that women will be welcome at their stake centers, as they have been previously. We encourage those who cannot attend with local groups to watch the session at home and share their experiences on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using the hashtag #withwomen.
We are grateful for the Church’s decision last October to make the priesthood session broadcast available online to both men and women. One year from that historic announcement, we want to commemorate such progress through prayerful, local attendance. We hope this action will strengthen bonds within our Mormon faith communities.
Look for more information soon at OrdainWomen.org about local meeting times and places, and consider attending October’s priesthood session together with Ordain Women supporters worldwide.
On September 8, 2014, Ordain Women will launch the OW International Initiative. September 8th is the 138th birthday of the first sister missionary in LDS church history, Amanda Inez Knight–who served a full-time international mission with Sister Jennie Brimhall in 1898.
Men and women have courageously submitted profiles to Ordain Women from all over the world–Brazil, Mexico, France, Switzerland, the Philippines, England, Uganda, Australia, the Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, Quebec, Germany, and many other countries. We are thrilled to highlight their stories. They offer a fresh and much-needed global perspective on equality. These internationally-oriented profiles will be available beginning September 8 in several different languages, as will our Mission statement, FAQ’s, our 6 Conversations, and other materials over time. Also, future international actions will be announced under the Actions tab. Women’s ordination is a global desire: we are a worldwide family of sisters and brothers united in asking church leaders to bring this issue to the Lord in prayer.
The Elders is a group of international political and cultural leaders who, challenged by Nelson Mandela to speak truth to power, use their collective experience and influence in the service of peace, justice and human rights. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter writes about his work with The Elders in his book A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power:
We had an extensive debate when I presented my concerns about the adverse impact of religious beliefs on women’s rights to this group of fellow leaders and advisers in 2008, because they represent practicing Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, and their faiths have different policies about the status of women. We finally decided to draw particular attention to the role of religious and traditional leaders in obstructing the campaign for equality and human rights … [The resulting statement asserted,] “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”
During their biannual meeting this year, several of the Elders participated in a town hall meeting at Oxford where chair Kofi Annan further identified their goals. Among them were a just and inclusive global community and freedom from fear. Equality–inclusiveness–in a just society isn’t about sameness. It’s about open access and opportunity for all without fear of retribution. We’ve learned, through such popular books as Half the Sky and the work of The Elders and many scholars, including Mormon academic Valerie Hudson, that marginalizing the talents and abilities of women is simply self-defeating. If we increasingly refuse to tolerate the inequitable treatment of women in our secular institutions, why, then, do we so readily accept it in our religious communities?
Last August, Ordain Women marked National Women’s Equality Day by joining with women and men of other faiths in a nation-wide fast for gender justice in religion. Called Equal in Faith, hundreds met virtually and in prayer meetings in Washington, DC and Salt Lake City to call attention to the belief that all will benefit when women pray, speak, teach, bless, lead and serve their congregations as priests, pastors, chaplains, preachers, rabbis and imams.
On Tuesday, August 26, Ordain Women, the Roman Catholic Women’s Ordination Conference, and Ordain Women Now of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod invite women and men of all faiths to mark National Women’s Equality Day by participating in a day-long social media campaign to highlight the need for gender justice in religion. We’re encouraging individuals to post photos and/or messages on social media that include the hashtag #equalinfaith and express their hope for religious gender equality. We will also launch the Equal in Faith website in preparation for an international, interfaith fast for religious gender equity on March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day.
Throughout the next few months, Ordain Women Regional Coordinators and interfaith coalitions will begin meeting regionally to plan for the March 8 Equal in Faith fast. The Salt Lake City meet up, for example, is from 7:00-8:30 PM on Tuesday, August 26, 2014, at the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, 211 W 100 S, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101.
Religions significantly impact the broader culture, which means we all have a stake in this. Our hope is that interfaith events like the August 26 social media campaign and the Equal in Faith fast on March 8 will underscore our faith in the ability of religion to liberate rather than subjugate women and ignite a conversation about maintaining what we value in our religious traditions while transforming them into more inclusive, equitable and welcoming communities.
It has been suggested that the title “Six Discussions” was problematic, particularly since Ordain Women does not seek members or followers. Rather, it provides a space where Mormons can openly speak about their concerns about gender inequality and hope that the prophet and apostles pray about women’s ordination. The decision to assemble faithful yet thought-provoking discussions was about conversation, not conversion. Since Ordain Women tries to be responsive to legitimate concerns, we have retitled them “Conversations,” and we’ll soon add a seventh compiled by and specifically geared toward men who also hope for the ordination of women. The previous conversations have been updated to reflect these changes.
The links below are to the materials that Kate Kelly has submitted to her Stake President for her appeal of her excommunication on June 23. More than 1000 letters of support were also included in the appeal, but are not included here for privacy reasons.
We believe that our church leaders are called of God and will do the right thing. We will continue the conversation about the role of women in the LDS Church.
I wrote this piece back in March for the Exponent II called “Fig Leaves & Choosing the Path of Authenticity.” The original Woman’s Exponent was a periodical published from 1872 until 1914 in Salt Lake City. Its purpose was to uplift and strengthen Mormon Women. The Exponent II revived that wonderful tradition 40 years ago.
The Exponent II’s most recent issue covers varied perspectives on female ordination and priesthood. It is excellent. You can order an online subscription here to access the entire, wonderful publication. It covers many voices, and nuanced perspectives.
Joy and Sorrow
By Kate Kelly
Like so many of you, I have been moving forward these past two weeks with a heaviness in my heart. I have been focusing on positive self-care. I have made it a point to spend time with family, go on many bike rides, and surround myself with true and stalwart friends. Amid the sadness and pain I have experienced, I’ve been reminding myself of the beauty and magic of life, and all that is wonderful on this earth. There is so much to be joyful and hopeful about. I have experienced what many who experience grief do: sorrow and loss, but also rebirth and a new-found wonder.
Let me be perfectly clear: what happened to me was wrong. It was abusive. It was unfair. It was unacceptable.
But, my reaction is mine to choose. I choose to move forward with grace in the face of brutality, unkindness and the sometimes hideous reaction of human beings to someone else’s tragedy.
I choose joy. I choose passion. I choose the delicious freedom of authenticity.
Points of clarification
There have been so, so many of you who have been with me on this journey. So many of you are fighting online battles in my defense, with those who are reticent to exercise compassion. To you I want to offer some additional information that may help clarify events.
I did not choose to “go public” with my church discipline:
I requested that information about my disciplinary process be kept in strict confidentiality. On May 6 I received an email from my Stake President, Scott Wheatley, that said, “because you have carried your campaign for ordination far beyond the boundaries of our Stake, and have previously told the media and the public that you are a member in good standing, it may be necessary at some point in the future to correct the public record regarding your standing in the Church. For these reasons, I cannot agree to the request in your email for absolute confidentiality.”
Hence, I felt I only had control of how the information about me was conveyed, and the power to tell my story myself, not whether or not it would be made public.
The Bishop who excommunicated me, Mark Harrison, did not initiate the disciplinary process against me or give me any direct council:
December 12, 2013 I met with President Wheatley at his request. President Wheatley emailed me before the meeting and said, “I would like to discuss your efforts regarding Ordain Women and hope to have Bishop Harrison join us.” [emphasis added] Bishop Harrison accepted his invitation to attended the meeting, but did not conduct or chime in much at all. The meeting was conducted by President Wheatley and he largely dominated the conversation. I blogged about the meeting here in December. My take-away from that meeting was that I was not at risk for discipline.
May 5, 2014 was the only other meeting I had with my leaders regarding Ordain Women. I was shocked when President Wheatley requested the May 5th meeting, I told him that I was in the process of moving out of state, as I mentioned to him in December, and was no longer able to meet with him. President Wheatley insisted I meet with him in an email saying he could meet, “anytime, day or night.” He also requested a “move restriction” be placed on my records in order to convey to me I had no choice but to meet with them, despite the move. I was stunned at the sudden urgency of a meeting as I was literally on my way out the door. However, I met with him, under duress, during that stressful time of selling all of my belongings and packing up my apartment, hoping to get the newly placed “move restriction” taken off so I could move on in peace.
Bishop Harrison did not attend the May 5th meeting. President Wheatley specifically said in the May 5th meeting he had no intention of convening a council in absentia. He made no indication that formal discipline was imminent.
There was no additional follow-up from Bishop Harrison regarding either of those meetings in person, over the phone, via email or otherwise until I received the notice that he was convening a disciplinary council on June 8, weeks after I had moved out of his ward.
In fact, just days before our move my husband and I saw Bishop Harrison and his wife at a ward member’s home. He wished us luck on our journey to Kenya and bid us farewell. There was no mention of any pending meeting, disciplinary or otherwise by him. My impression was that we left on good terms and would not hear from him again. He had never reached out to me directly before, despite several emails I sent him requesting he come to me for information on Ordain Women if he was ever troubled by my involvement.
Aside from quietly attending the December meeting President Wheatley convened, Bishop Harrison never came to me to engage in any conversation about Ordain Women with me directly.
I am not encouraging people to leave the church:
I encourage everyone to find a safe space where they can be their authentic selves and live with integrity. If you feel emotionally capable of staying in the church, I encourage you to stay. However, as active members of the church who see problems with gender inequality, I encourage you to continue to raise questions about women in the church. People of conscience should raise their voices. If you stay, speak up.
It’s not too late.
I am appealing the decision to excommunicate me and it is not too late for the leaders involved to do the right thing. In a recent talk Elder Holland said, “however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made … It is never too late…”
In fact, it’s not too late for the church to do the right thing for Margaret and Lavina and all of the others who have been harshly punished for speaking out in favor of equality in the church. Just as the church teaches individual church members to correct past mistakes, the institution can also rectify old wrongs and heal old wounds. The Church has shown some signs that it is willing to make amends and correct errors of the past.
In fact, it wasn’t even too late for Helmuth Hübener, a young Mormon of extraordinary courage who was summarily executed for standing up to the third Reich in Nazi Germany. Ten days after his arrest by the Gestapo, Helmuth was excommunicated by his local church leaders in absentia. He spoke of his excommunication as more painful than his wrongful conviction by the Nazis. The day he was to be executed, Helmuth wrote in a letter to a fellow branch member: “I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter… I look forward to seeing you in a better world!” However, even in Helmuth’s case it was not too late for the Church to do the right thing. After the war was over, he was posthumously reinstated in the LDS Church and had his ordinances restored. His records now indicate he was excommunicated “by mistake.”
One of the most beautiful and comforting things I learned as a young Mormon girl is that repentance is real. We can always forgive, forget and move on from past error or pain. In my personal case, and in the cases of so many others, it is not “everlastingly too late.” I have two levels of appeal, which I intend to pursue. One to President Wheatley, my initial accuser. If unsuccessful, I will appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, as is my right.
Regardless of the outcome of my appeal, my heart will go on beating and I will move forward, confident that I did the right thing. I spoke the truth, with love. I acted with integrity, as I was taught in Young Women. I stood together with my sisters.
We have the choice to let fear of punishment silence us. Let’s choose the courage of our pioneer foremothers over fear. Let’s choose to step into the light and speak boldly instead of hiding in the shadows. Let’s choose to speak up now, instead of accepting a deferred dream for our daughters.
I do not know what the future holds for me, but can assure you of one thing going forward: firm as the mountains around us, Ordain Women will carry on!
We sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and are grateful to receive guidance from our leaders. We pray that they will continue to respond directly to the needs and desires of Church members and take their concerns and questions to God. The statement describes current church policy on priesthood, in which “only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices.” There is no mention of why women cannot be ordained or that they will not be in the future. We continue in the sincere hope that our leaders will prayerfully bring this question before the Lord.
We also acknowledge that the statement publicly discloses the official definition of apostasy from Church Handbook of Instructions Volume 1, a volume of church policy that is available to thousands of male leaders but restricted to only nine women in the Church. We affirm that we are not acting in opposition to the prophet or the Church, have not taught false doctrine and do not meet any definition of apostasy.
Ordain Women Executive Board:
The verdict has been handed down in the disciplinary trial of Kate Kelly, one of the founders of the group Ordain Women. Today, Kelly’s former ecclesiastical leader in Virginia, Bishop Mark Harrison, contacted Kelly by email to inform her that the all-male panel of judges who tried her in absentia on Sunday, June 22nd, has convicted her on the charge of apostasy and has decided to excommunicate her, which is the most serious punishment that can be levied by a Church court. Bishop Harrison explained the consequences of excommunication and the conditions he has imposed upon Kelly, in order for her to be considered worthy of future re-baptism into the Church:
” . . . our determination is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church. This means that you may not wear temple garments or contribute tithes and offerings. You may not take the sacrament, hold a Church calling, give a talk in Church, offer a public prayer in behalf of the class or congregation in a Church meeting, or vote in the sustaining of Church officers. These conditions almost always last at least one year. If you show true repentance and satisfy the conditions imposed below while you are no longer a member, you may be readmitted by baptism and confirmation.
“In order to be considered for readmission to the Church, you will need to demonstrate over a period of time that you have stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood. You must be truthful in your communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders, including the administration of Church discipline, and you must stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church.”
Kelly says, “The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.”
Debra Jenson of Ordain Women said, “We are deeply saddened by this news. As Mormons we recognize the gravity of this action. We follow the directive of Mosiah 18:9 and will mourn with our sister as she mourns. We regret that there is no way to predict how local leaders will react to conversations about gender inequality in the Church—-many have been supportive in these discussions, others have not. Ordain Women will continue.”
In anticipation of Kate Kelly’s church disciplinary council, Ordain Women asked for letters of support commenting on how Ordain Women had deepened their relationship with the LDS Church, strengthened their faith and given them hope. They will be presented to Kate’s ecclesiastical leaders and Church Headquarters. Over 1,140 letters were submitted. We’re gratified by the overwhelming response and touched by the sincerity of the messages. OW will publish selected letters each day leading up to the date of the disciplinary council.
My heart goes out to Sister Kelly. From what I know of her, it is clear that she loves the gospel and the Church. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Sister Kelly, and with the many members of the Church who care deeply about these issues.
I am a life-long member of the Church. I have been active in the Church all my life, and have held a variety of callings. I am presently serving as a bishop. I love the gospel and I love the Church. I offer my faith and prayers in the council’s behalf, asking and believing that your hearts will be filled with love and that you will receive knowledge from the Lord concerning His will in this matter. I believe disciplinary councils are courts of love because I have presided over many of them, and love was by far the strongest feeling shared in each and every one of them. I respect the keys you hold, and I am confident that you do not take this responsibility lightly. I wish to offer two points in defense of Kate Kelly. First, her principal aim, and the stated objective of Ordain Women, is to seek to have the leaders of the Church inquire of the Lord concerning His will with respect to whether women should be ordained to the priesthood. Indeed, the Mission Statement of Ordain Women concludes with this sentence: “We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer.” Sister Kelly understands that this is a matter to be determined not by her, nor by any woman or man, but only by revelation from the Lord to the prophet. Second, neither the scriptures nor the doctrine of the Church define asking the Lord for help, guidance, blessings or miracles as apostasy. If asking of the Lord is not apostasy, then asking the leaders of the Church to ask of the Lord is likewise not apostasy.
In President Wheatley’s letter to Kate Kelly dated May 22, 2014, I read that Sister Kelly must “stop trying to…lead others away from the church.” Sister Kelly has done the opposite for me—her efforts and testimony have brought me closer to Heavenly Father and to our church.
I have always been an active, temple recommend holding member (plus a returned missionary). And even as OW launched in 2013, I had most recently finished serving as my ward’s Relief Society President. I continue to faithfully serve in my ward, and my husband is in our Bishopric. Sister Kelly’s desire to ask the Brethren to pray over women’s status in our church rings true to my soul. I am grateful to her for standing up and saying what needs to be said. I have felt the Spirit when pondering over the matters that Sister Kelly has raised, and I will be forever grateful to her for the voice and testimony that she has brought to our church.
I pray that Sister Kelly will not be ousted from our community, as she is a sister who has brought me personally closer to Christ.
When I first heard of Ordain Women I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Having the Priesthood is not something I have strong feelings about. However, feeling like women need more of a voice within the Church and having concerns about the obvious inequities between the opportunities men and women have to serve and participate within the Church is something I have struggled with over the years. I have mostly kept these concerns to myself, but in doing so, have at times felt isolated and alone, and like I may not belong at church. Not because I don’t have a testimony, but because I was worried that my views may not be socially or culturally acceptable to many members.
What Ordain Women (OW) and Kate’s work have done for me, and I would venture to guess for many other women, is to provide a safe space to share our feelings, our experiences, and maybe most importantly, our desires. Having a forum where women can express the desires of their hearts, particularly when these desires are righteous desires, is not something to be feared, but something to be embraced. I find the work of OW to be faith promoting and testimony strengthening as they have been instrumental in starting important and necessary conversations (far beyond the topic of women and the priesthood) to occur, but are doing so in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
I am an active High Priest … in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I do not know whether or when women should be ordained to the priesthood, but I think it is a critical question worth open and respectful discussion. Everything I have read about Kate Kelly’s work and that I have heard her say on several podcasts that I have listened to indicates that she is asking the question in a respectful and persistent way. God help us all if it becomes implicitly or explicitly forbidden to publicly ask questions and have discussions about these kinds of important matters.
I believe in female ordination. I don’t believe in female ordination because Kate Kelly started a website and began publicly asking the question. I believe in female ordination because, during one of my last visits to the temple, I had a spiritual experience that confirmed my hope that our Heavenly Parents wanted more for women. That experience was one of the most potent spiritual experiences I ever had, akin to my first intimate interaction with God.
After that experience, I had a difficult time maintaining my testimony. I was frustrated and discouraged that there was no forum for me to voice my concerns about exclusion. I felt isolated because I was not comfortable discussing my desire to have a greater role in the Church.
One day, I listed to a podcast that led me to ordainwomen.org. I cannot describe the sense of excitement and relief that I felt when I found that forum. I suddenly found an optimism for the Church that had been absent in my heart for many years. I was elated to find a place where I could voice my questions and concerns, to know that there were others struggling with the same issues that I experienced. It rejuvenated my testimony and led me back to activity in the Church.
I can honestly say that Kate Kelly taught me nothing that I didn’t already feel about female ordination. She voices my questions and concerns more eloquently, but she voices my concerns and questions. I participated in the October 2013 event, and none of the women that I spoke to described a “conversion” to the idea of female ordination that came from Kate Kelly. Instead, these women discussed personal, isolating, painful struggles that led them to that belief on their own.
Kate Kelly created a forum for us to come together to ask these questions. For me, that was a heroic and inspiring act. I admire her humility and faith, and she demonstrates a thoughtfulness that I respect. Losing her as a sister because she asked the same questions I feel in my heart would be devastating to my faith and confidence in this church.
As an individual not associated with Ordain Women and one who is neutral concerning their controversial methodology, I appreciate what the group has done by raising questions that need to be asked and answered. I value their bravery to be vocal and respectful with their concerns in an organization that allows very little space for truthful sincerity. I’ve been deeply disappointed with the Church’s PR response to the organization time and time again, including this recent decision to bring Sister Kelly to a church court. I share many of her concerns but have not been brave enough to ask as she has, knowing the consequences of such honesty that she is now facing. To know that there are others out there, braver than I, who are willing to lead has given me much hope and reason to stay in an organization which I have loved but that I see as increasingly un=Christlike in the way that members’ sincere concerns are handled.
I would like to tell you how Sister Kate Kelly has helped deepen my appreciation of LDS doctrine and given me hope that I can remain a member of this church.
I am a 5th-generation member of the church, hailing from a very active family. Nearly 20 years ago, I started to quietly question why women could not have the priesthood. Over these two decades I have studied this issue and tried to make my peace with it. I tried to keep my question a secret because I could not find a safe place to ask or discuss my question, but it continually ate at me.
However, after Sister Kelly—very bravely—asked the brethren to pray whether women could have the priesthood, I noticed that it became more okay to have the discussions I have been longing to have for 20 years. Now, I know that these discussions might seem threatening to some people, but the discussions I have participated in have been very faithful. They have consisted of people really studying the scriptures, the doctrine, our history. We have learned so much! And, at least in my case, the burden of having this secret question has been lightened. This in conjunction with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk, “Come, Join with Us,” gave me hope that there was space for someone like me in this church. You don’t realize how important hope is unless you have lived without it.
I have heard speculation that Sister Kelly is being called into a disciplinary hearing not because of her questioning but, instead, because of her actions. I can understand why such actions seem problematic; I initially was unsure about them myself. However, I read an interview with Chieko Okazaki, conducted in 2005, in which she discussed in detail the difficulties she and the rest of the Relief Society General Presidency had in getting their needs met by the brethren. She said, “Sometimes I think they get so busy that they forget that we are there.”*
If Sister Okazaki had a difficult time getting her concerns addressed, how are the rest of us supposed to have our concerns met? Sometimes it feels like we are left with no other mechanism but “disobedience” to be heard—sometimes you have to wrestle with the angel. That does not mean that mistakes haven’t been made along the way; hindsight is 20/20. But it does mean that until safer, more robust mechanisms are in place for women’s concerns on this and other issues to be heard, it seems like a travesty to punish Sister Kelly for resorting to the only methods that seem to get attention.
*Greg Prince (2012). “There is Always a Struggle”: An Interview with Chieko N. Okazaki. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 45(1), 112-140.
I am thankful for Sister Kelly’s courage and questioning. She has helped my heart to heal and remain in Mormonism. She has spurred me to deepen my understanding of the priesthood.
Sister Kelly, her family, you, and the rest of the brethren are in my prayers at this difficult time.
I have been a ward Relief Society president on four occasions, stake Relief society counsellor twice and Primary and Young Women’s president along with being an ordinance worker in the temple … and I am shattered at what is happening regarding Kate. She has kept me going when I wanted to give up. She gave me hope for the future of the Church. She gave me hope for my daughters and granddaughters staying in the Church. Please do not destroy that hope by punishing her.
Growing up, I saw how my very intelligent and capable sister chafed at not feeling like a first-class citizen in the Church. I also sensed that boys felt like they were more important than girls. I so long for that all to change, and, as a committed and faithful member, I’ve deeply appreciated the work of Ordain Women in raising awareness and starting conversations that I hope will raise the status of women in the Church.
As a relatively new convert (joined in early summer of ’13), Kate Kelly has been a source of inspiration for me during the many times when I have felt like the Church and the Church’s culture weren’t welcoming of differing viewpoints. Her continuing faith and dedication and her acceptance by the Church have been comfort and proof that there is room and a place for everyone who loves the gospel. This disciplinary council is so disappointing (and un-Christlike) that my heart just breaks for us all.