Ordain Women is excited to celebrate and honor the first Women’s Session of General Conference by encouraging all supporters and allies to attend. We look forward to hearing the voices of our female leaders on important gospel topics and we hope it will be regarded with the same reverence and respect as other sessions of General Conference have in the past.
In January, Ordain Women requested a block of tickets from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that request has not been answered. Supporters who would like to attend in person with Executive Chair Debra Jenson are meeting at City Creek Park at 5pm on Saturday, March 28th then will walk and request tickets at the stand-by line. This is not an action, but a chance to gather together for a historic event. We are encouraging all those that support religious gender equality to wear purple to the meeting, wherever they attend, and to continue to have faith that our deepest heartfelt prayers towards equality will be answered.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Joanna Wallace, the author of this post, is the Chair of Ordain Women’s Social Media Committee.
Today’s Sunday Spotlight features Noel. She discusses how important it has been to surround her self with supportive, faithful individuals who have created a community where it is okay, perhaps even encouraged, to have questions.
I didn’t join OW until the summer of 2014. I was a newlywed and had a broken heart after Kate’s exing. I knew of OW from the start. I was supportive, but had my heart set on a goal of teaching at BYU. I thought if I could get a job there, I would be able to help guide those students, who like me had doubts and concerns. Give them a different path for their lives, both by example and through talking with them. However, those dreams faded when I was passed over for more than one job based on a rather strange confluence of events.
After the second job had come and gone, I decided enough was enough and that I had to put my voice in with the women of OW. I had to be part of the change that is so desperately needed.
Growing up in the Church, I never really saw women as “less than.” This is largely thanks to my unorthodox parents and ward leaders who never told the girls we weren’t allowed to do things based on gender. My leadership encouraged the young women to attend high adventures, to gain real skills, and to look at alternative futures. My Young Women leadership consisted of women who had married outside the Church and women who were on second marriages. These women showed (by example) that there were other paths. Their words told us that there was one path to hope for and to seek after, but we knew that reality didn’t always follow that path.
When I say my parents weren’t orthodox, I mean it. My dad was a convert; he converted four years into my parents’ marriage. My mother is the daughter of converts and nearly lost her family because she chose to marry my dad. She once told me that she knew that she was meant to marry him, and that following that prompting was more important to her than her family’s disapproval. My grandparents did come around and were an active and supportive part of their marriage.
As I think about my mom’s experience with marrying my dad, I contemplate the injustice that she faced by the church. As a woman marrying outside the faith in the Seventies, she was precluding herself from the temple blessings. She knew that choosing to marry a Catholic man meant she would not be allowed entrance to the temple. I think of the courage and faith it took her to marry knowing that she wouldn’t be allowed to enter the temple. What makes this even more profound in light of OW is that men were allowed to marry outside the temple, but still be active temple participants. It wasn’t until the 1986 that this rule was changed and parity was given.
My parents taught all their children to be free thinkers, to come to their own decisions. This often meant living with consequences we didn’t like, but we were always told to think for ourselves. Our house was filled with religious books, which ranged from mostly LDS, to overviews of other faiths. Nothing was held back. Dinner was a time to ask all the questions that were haunting us. My parents openly answered these questions. It’s no wonder that in this environment of questions, I started to see flaws in my faith tradition.
One of my strongest memories of seeing the flaws in the faith, started with a well-intentioned lesson on eternal marriage. Being the daughter of a convert, my grandparents were not members, so sitting in a class that taught they would be separated after death. This did not sit well with me and I remember crying myself to sleep any time that these lessons were given. I could not understand how loving Heavenly Parents could be so cruel. My grandparents spent more of their earthly life together than apart. It would be hell to them to be separated. I learned quickly that it was okay for me to be a faithful member and to question teachings that didn’t seem in line with the gospel I was being taught. This idea that my grandparents weren’t going to be allowed to be together forever was forcibly rejected by my young mind. Why? Because my Heavenly Parents would judge the content of my grandparents’ hearts and see that they were truly meant to be eternally bound.
This is just one of many ways that I started to see the flaws. In my heart of hearts, I know that our Heavenly Parents see all their children as equals. That gender, sexual orientation, marriage status, etc don’t preclude their children from full activity and worship.
I got a sense of this inclusion living in Baltimore City. I attended the single’s ward there and I never felt that people would be uninvited for being different. In fact, I posted one night on Facebook that I was working on my talk (about the Atonement) while watching Kill Bill. The next day, my bishop approached me and laughed with me that my talk was not what he expected based on my Facebook post. That day I breathed a sigh of relief because I could be me.
This idea of all are welcome was consistently reiterated to me as I taught Gospel Doctrine. I stood in front of the class and openly admitted that I found the stories of the Bible to be just that, stories. They taught great lessons for us to learn, but they weren’t meant to be taken literally. My stake president and his counselors were in attendance. No one corrected me. In fact, this theme was continued throughout several other lessons, and I was thanked for being so honest. I am indebted to these friends I made, they gave me a community of fellow doubters who were all trying to find their place.
As I consider the future and what it holds, I am heartened when I look at the little people in my life. My stepsons are wildly dedicated to the idea of feminism. They do their part to show me love and support as I try to be bold about who I am and what I believe. My nieces and nephews are such loving and strong little people that I know they will be able to stand up and take charge of the church and world. I have hope that through the efforts of those in groups like Ordain Women, Mormons Building Bridges, Mormons for Equality, Sunstone, etc that one day I will be able to say,
All are alike unto God: male and female, black and white, gay and straight.
God is a Mother and a Father.
Mormon women matter.
(p. 140, Book of Mormon Girl)
And mean it.
Ordain Women enthusiastically welcomes the Church’s new policy announced yesterday that female reporters will now be allowed to attend the Priesthood Session of General Conference in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since the founding of Ordain Women in 2013, we have vocally and repeatedly pointed out the disparity in barring female reporters from the building for that session. We applaud the Church for responding to concerns that female church members raised to rectify this glaring inconsistency, and we are pleased that they are choosing to listen and implement new policies like this one and others to eliminate gender inequality in the Church these past two years. Given yesterday’s policy change, we are hopeful that individual LDS women who want to attend their local priesthood sessions will be welcomed just as these female reporters, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, are now permitted to attend.
We are thankful that the Church took a step toward equality in journalism and hope they continue in that direction in all other areas.
I became aware of Ordain Women shortly before the first General Conference action. I had recently become a part of the Mormon Feminist community after an incident with a priesthood leader proved to me that I could no longer ignore the inequalities at church. This was not the first time I had seen a priesthood leader use his position inflict damage on others and I realized that there was no redress for women in that situation. I came to the conclusion that there could be no place for me in such a church. I thought there was no hope for change and I knew there was no process in place for me to try to make things better. However, when I first read about Ordain Women I cried tears of joy. I cried because even though I didn’t want the priesthood I was not the only women who noticed the inequality in the church. I cried because I realized that maybe there was hope for change and equality after all. I had never met any of these women but their courage and example helped me to find a way to stay in the church.
I do not personally feel the call to ordination. I am a believer is working within the system for incremental change. I want to see women as part of the organizational body of the church, whether they have the priesthood or not. However, as I have read the stories of those who feel called to the priesthood I have been inspired and heartbroken all at the same time. I read their stories and I hurt for my sisters and I remembered that the most fundamental part of the gospel is love. We are commanded to love God and to love one another. I do not have to agree with someone to love them. I do not have to agree with someone to listen to their experiences and try to understand their pain.
There is room in Mormonism for everyone. Elder Uchtdorf said “Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.” I take him at his word and I believe that this church is for all of us. Church is not for the perfect; it is for the questioners, the strong, the weak, the doubters, the rebels, and the sinners. We are all trying to become better people and trying to become more like the Savior. I may not want the priesthood for myself but I know that I want the women who do sitting in Relief Society next to me, teaching me in gospel doctrine, teaching my children in primary, leading by example in Young Womens, and I want us to serve together. I believe that as sisters we can all work together to build God’s kingdom no matter our differences.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning the future.
Shelley Smith, the author of this post, is a lifelong LDS member living and working in Texas.
Today’s spotlight comes from Sara, who opens up and so eloquently describes her love for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, her testimony of the Priesthood and her confidence in her relationship with God.
What gives you hope for the future
I try to simply have faith in God’s love for each one of us. The Spirit has confirmed and testified of that love to me so strongly in my life, and based on that, I have tremendous hope that, in the eternities, we will have an incredible amount of peace, potential, and unity. We will be with God again. The words of the hymn, “All Now Mysterious Shall Be Bright At Last” has a view of the eternities that gives me hope.
Aside from ordination, what are some changes you would like to see implemented immediately in the Church?
I would love for the membership of the church to embrace the gifts of the spirit more fully. The scriptures say nothing about these gifts being separated by gender, and yet we so often talk and think as though priesthood holders are the only ones who can give blessings by the laying on of hands. I just don’t see any doctrinal foundation for that view, and I think it would be so incredibly spiritual and strengthening for women (and non-ordained men) to know that they could bless those around them — their children, their friends, their siblings, their spouses — simply through faith. What a beautiful way to invite the Spirit into our homes and our lives.
Tell us more about your connection to Mormonism?
My family has been part of the church for many generations, tracing back to the church’s founding days in the United States and to many powerful conversion experiences in Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and England. I grew up in an active Mormon family and have many cherished memories of church activities, from Primary classes through the present day. I think my testimony got its start at my first year of Girls’ Camp, and ever since then, that testimony and my church life have been very important to me.
What was your favorite calling?
I generally enjoy teaching and have had some great opportunities to teach in my callings, but I think my favorite calling overall was that of Nursery Leader (which I guess is technically a teaching calling, but our lessons usually lasted two minutes or less). I was 20 years old and living in my parent’s ward between school semesters, and I think I lucked into the most hilarious and sweet group of kids ever. That was a wonderful calling.
What are some of the things you love about the Church?
I love the church’s emphasis on family, on a personal connection with Christ, and on the Holy Ghost. I love testimony meeting. I love the chance to bond with my Relief Society sisters. I love the notion of all of us being God’s children, and I believe that with all my heart — that we are brothers and sisters, children of Heavenly Parents, with enormous responsibilities and worth. I love the fact that we have to rely on volunteer work in all of our callings and church activities, as much as that may be inconvenient or disappointing at times — it gives such opportunities for growth, charity, and forgiveness. I love the hymns and the annual Primary Program. Most of all, I love the beautiful, confusing contradictions — the challenge to find balance and focus on what’s truly important. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a wonderful place to come to know God and learn some of life’s most valuable lessons.
What prompted you to put up your Ordain Women profile?
I was prompted by the Spirit to publicly express my desire for women’s ordination through an Ordain Women profile. I had been thinking about the subject for many months, but my feelings were always changing, and to be honest, I didn’t have a testimony of the priesthood at that time. I knew that if I were going to support women’s ordination, it needed to be grounded in a true spiritual desire for the priesthood, not in any sort of intellectual or strategic reasons. That just wouldn’t have been right for me. But I felt no special need to make a stand on the issue, one way or the other; I just tried to be open to whatever God wanted to tell me. I was feeding my baby some applesauce one day and it felt like this rush of wind came from out of nowhere. I suddenly had this thorough belief that the priesthood — though complicated and hard to understand in many ways — was really from God, and united with that witness was the feeling that the desire for women to be ordained was a righteous desire and something I shouldn’t feel any shame about, that in fact, I should be vocal about it. I wrote and submitted my profile just a few days later and I checked in with God frequently to make sure I was doing the right thing. I felt very peaceful about it and to this day have continued to feel that same peace that comes from knowing that I’m following God’s will for me.
Have you had the opportunity to attend any actions?
I attended the second priesthood session action, in April of 2014. It’s hard to say how it affected or changed me; I suppose I feel like it was just one day in a very long string of days, and any single experience isn’t necessarily that important until it’s connected with the rest. I remember feeling that day like it was crucial that I have an inner confidence in my relationship with God. Nothing dramatic happened (aside from a sudden hailstorm!), and when all was said and done, I simply waited in a line with a bunch of other people in order to ask a question I already knew the answer to. I didn’t feel hopeful that we’d be allowed to watch priesthood session in person. But I still felt it was important and right that I be there, with my brothers and sisters, contributing my voice and my body and my faith. I walked home from Temple Square and watched the rest of the priesthood session in my living room. It was a quiet and purifying day for me. It was an important step in learning to care more what God wanted of me than what others thought of me.
I currently serve as the Relief Society President in my ward. It is a very large ward, from a geographical and demographical standpoint, and includes all of the areas in Atlanta that would be classified as inner city. There are many needs in our ward and the calling of Relief Society President is a big one to fulfill and magnify.
I am thankful that God has blessed me with gifts and talents that I use to fulfill and magnify my calling. I have also been blessed with gifted and talented counselors. At the risk of sounding prideful, I think we do an excellent job. However, I think we could do so much more if we were ordained.
Let me be clear. I do not want ordination to put another set of letters or credentials behind my name. I have enough of those. I do not want ordination to put a title in front of my name – Ms. Roberts or Sister Roberts will do just fine. I do not want ordination because I think I somehow deserve it. I do not want to be ordained because I do not have enough to do. No, I want to be ordained and I have received confirmation that my desire to be ordained is in keeping with divine will because it has been revealed to me that every act of administering, ministering, and service I perform or oversee or delegate in connection with my calling would be greatly enhanced if I had priesthood authority, power, and keys.
On paper, women make up about 51% of our ward. In terms of active members, however, women make up about 67% of that group. Many of those women are single mothers. Under the current structure, there are simply not enough active priesthood holders in our ward to meet the needs.
In my role as Relief Society President, sisters often come to me for spiritual guidance. As they are confiding in me, I often receive the impression that they need a blessing. There have also been so many times when I receive a call about a sister in distress, who is in need of a blessing. While I may minister to that sister’s physical or temporal needs, I cannot provide that blessing. I may pray for that sister and I know that my prayer is heard, but my prayer, as heartfelt and fervent as it may be, does not fulfill that prompting I received; nor does it have the same ritual and reassurance that God is speaking through me to address her need.
Most of those sisters are unmarried and have no priesthood holders in their homes. In addition, many of those sisters do not have an established relationship with their home teachers, because they have recently moved into the ward and not been assigned home teachers or because scheduling conflicts have prevented them from connecting with their home teachers. I probably spend a good portion of my day coordinating with male priesthood holders to come and administer blessings when if I was ordained to the priesthood, I would be able to go ahead and administer those blessings. We believe that God has established a house of order. Does it seem to be in keeping with divine will that that so many people have to be involved to complete this task and administer to a sister in need?
In the confines of my previous faith history, I could have and would have blessed that sister. In the LDS Church of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, I would have had the authority to and would have blessed that sister. However, under the current structure, even though I may be just as faithful and as worthy as my sisters in the past were, l do not have the authority to bless that sister. So her pain, her distress, and her anguish have to continue until I can find not just one, but two male priesthood holders to bless her. I ask you again, is that situation in keeping with divine will?
I love my calling. I love the sisters who serve as my counselors. I love the sisters in the ward and am honored that I have been called to serve them. I have a strong desire to serve them. However, gender still trumps everything, including my desire and willingness to serve and my gifts and my talents, and because of my gender, I am limited in my ability to serve and minister to my sisters. Oh, if I only I had the priesthood!
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Bryndis Roberts, the author of this post, is the Chair of Ordain Women’s Intersectionality Committee.
On March 17, 2013 I hit the button to launch ordainwomen.org. 22 women and men put up profiles explaining both their connection to Mormonism and the reasons they felt women should be ordained. It is hard to describe what it felt like at that moment. It was as if with one push of a button, I was free. Free to speak my mind and free to acknowledge the patently obvious fact that men and women are not equal in our church.
Many of those original profiles were my friends and family members. It took courage to stand up and put our personal information out there for all to see not knowing what the result would be. It takes courage to keep standing when so many things have transpired over the last two years with the express purpose of discouraging us.
Yet, here we are.
Far from shrinking into obscurity, Ordain Women has grown to a robust, diverse, worldwide movement. Those original 22 profiles have grown to over 600 Mormon women and men willing to take very tangible risks to tell their stories. I never, never would have imagined at the beginning that the call for female ordination would attract so many and inspire such unwavering authenticity. I did not predict that it was an idea whose time had truly arrived.
Our Catholic sisters at the Women’s Ordination Conference taught me a phrase that has defined for me the beauty in our struggle:
‘they can crush a few flowers, but they can’t hold back the springtime.’
In March, the season of renewal surrounds us in many parts of the world. Spring brings warmth and our thoughts turn to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ cannot be separated from the cross he bore. He taught us of hope, renewal and fearlessness in the face of great odds.
The seeds of gender justice were planted in the Mormon Church by women who came many, many years ago. And, like a crocus in spring, they are just now beginning to emerge. It’s essential that we celebrate each milestone, each victory. It’s also crucial that we stand back and see the life of this struggle and realize that it is in its infancy. Fresh, new and ready to take root.
I learned from another faith tradition, this time the Quakers, about our place in this vibrant, continuous, sustainable march toward equality:
‘Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justice now.
Love mercy now.
You are not obligated to complete this work, but neither are your free
to abandon it.’
Those who newly find their courage will join those original 22 saints in speaking up for gender justice. We will continue to find joy and rejuvenation in speaking truth and bearing witness to the sacrifices of others. This movement, though in its infancy, has already been a resounding success because we have found our voices and banished our silence.
Happy birthday to Ordain Women, and many happy springtimes to come to all women who seek parity in a patriarchal world.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
You can see more ordain Women YouTube videos HERE.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Bryndis Roberts, the author of this post, is the Chair of the Ordain Women’s Intersectionality Committee.
Today’s spotlight features Brittany! She gives a beautiful summary of how men and women working together, side by side in the Church can and would be a beautiful thing.
LDS theology is incredibly unique and rich. I was taught that women have the potential to become Gods with their husbands in the eternities. That’s not an insignificant piece of doctrine. I think women are starting to realize that they not only have eternal potential, but potential to serve in a greater capacity now. I see so many women getting higher education, asking hard questions, and analyzing theology and scripture. It gives me hope. Lately, I’ve been looking closer into the life of Jesus, and he did extremely radical, taboo and even blasphemous things for his time. Those things were almost without fail, done to include those around him that didn’t feel like their voice was being heard. The church has made some amazing promises to women, and it excites me to see more and more realize the reality of continuing revelation and the idea that women can make a difference here and now.
The YW program was especially beneficial to me. I was given several leadership opportunities in the program and that helped me realize what some of my strengths were, when far too often teenage girls don’t have any confidence placed in them which can send them down a road of self-doubt. I felt extremely empowered as a woman in my youth. My upbringing in the church also gave me a foundation of faith, prayer, meditation, study and it taught me to ask hard questions that might not have immediate answers.
I’ve always been troubled by the lack of female voices in the church. I think it would do everyone good to hear from more women during conference, have women write curriculum and manuals, and to study the words of women like we study the words of men. I also think women could be a great asset in helping out with budgets and the logistical side of the church. Activity Days and Young Women programs should truly be equal to Scouts. I think teaching our young girls leadership and practical skills is crucial if we want to create a generation of women who feel empowered, useful, and loved.
When I was in high school, I basically demanded to have the one female seminary teacher twice in a row because I hear the voice of God best through female voices. I didn’t even know Mormon feminism was a thing, but I was one. I’ve looked up the few female leaders in the church who get any recognition for their brilliance, but I’ve always wanted more.
My husband and I entered a faith crisis in 2011, and we progressed through that at our own, individual rate. The Sunday after Kate Kelly was excommunicated I sat in church for 3 hours, on the verge of literally screaming out in pain. I felt like my church was moving in a direction that I wasn’t comfortable with and leaving me behind. It was heartbreaking. I soon decided to join my husband in his interest in looking at Community of Christ (RLDS) as a possible spiritual home. It didn’t take long before I realized that my heart was safe, free, and validated there. My questions, concerns, hopes and dreams were welcomed there. I started to blossom there. It was especially good because we were still able to hold on to our heritage within the Joseph Smith’s restoration framework, we just adjusted that framework a little. We officially joined in January and I feel like I’ve found my home. I still do get sad when I think about stepping out of the LDS church because that was my church. It was everything to me for 26 years. I think of my ancestors who gave up everything to follow their convictions and oddly enough, their drive and testimonies are what has helped me step into another denomination under the umbrella of the restoration. I’ve found where my heart sings. I think they would be proud of that.
I put up a profile when I finally found the courage. It was hard because I saw what my friends and family were saying about it, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I didn’t necessarily want ordination for myself, but I truly and deeply believe female ordination is what God wants. Seeing how it works in Community of Christ was a game changer for me. I’ve felt and seen their priesthood work, and it’s beautiful. Women and men are working side by side, blessing and passing the sacrament together, making joint decisions for the congregation. True equality. It was after seeing female ordination in action a few times that I decided to write my profile. I was terrified, but it felt so good. It was incredibly healing for me to own the fact that I think women should be ordained. It might sound silly, but it was one of the scariest moments in my life when I admitted it “out loud” by submitting my profile.
Since submitting a profile, I’ve met amazing people and have gained a lot of confidence. I’ve become open to learning from other ordained women in different denominations, and it inspires me. I’ve read about and have seen so many inspiring women who would have never been given the chance to touch so many lives in the capacity they do, without ordination. It’s also been amazing to see the compilation that Ordain Women has put out with early church leader’s perspectives on women performing priesthood duties. I had no idea women were giving healing blessings, anointing, or that they were “ordained”. It further deepens my convictions that this is what God wants.
For the most part, the reaction of my family and friends has been surprisingly positive. I have only heard one or two negative comments about it. I have faith that people are genuinely kind, good people and that there is a place for people to disagree in the church. I know it hurt a lot of people, and some were left scrambling, not knowing what to do with me. Overall, my relationships even after stepping away from the church have mostly remained intact.
I have had several people tell me that my profile softened their hearts on the topic quite a bit. I think there was an element of shock to it because I had been silent on the topic when everyone around me was talking about it. Suddenly, I was *that* person, but really, I was still the same Brittany that everybody knew. I’ve been able to have conversations about it with a few people, and everyone has been really respectful to me about it. I do think that ‘testimony’ is a good word to describe my feelings about it. I truly, truly believe that the LDS church would be healthier, stronger and more spiritual if women were ordained.