Sister Neill Marriott, second counselor in the Church’s Young Women general presidency, opened a rare press conference with Church leaders this morning—the first time a female leader has done so. She noted that the push for gay rights was prompted by “centuries of ridicule, persecution and even violence against homosexuals. Ultimately, most of society recognized that such treatment was simply wrong…God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all of his children equally, and he expects us to treat each other with love and fairness.”
Marriott’s observation reminds us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s hope for a more just future: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” As world religious institutions are among the last to end discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, we have hope that one day universal equality will be reflected in laws, policies and practices everywhere.
Ordain Women applauds initiatives that protect the civil rights and human dignity of all, particularly those who have endured discrimination and marginalization. We trust the cloak of religious freedom will not be used to cover bigotry and prejudice.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future
On a Sunday when I was ten years old, I went to a different ward than my home ward in Provo, Utah. I was sitting in the back corner of the chapel with my mom and cousin watching a baby blessing. When the young boy brought the white-plastic tray of Grandma Sycamore’s bread, I was far enough away from the next person on the row that I had to stand up between rows of folding chairs. I walked the tray over to the next person who wanted to take a small piece of bread in remembrance of our Savior. For some reason, passing the tray down an aisle of chairs was allowed, but because of my gender, I was not allowed to walk from the front of the church to the back holding bread and water. That was the only time I was ever permitted to hold a sacrament tray for someone else, and it sticks out in my mind even several years later.
The first time I noticed the gender inequality in Mormonism was because of the sacrament. When I was eleven, my best friend was a boy in my Valiant 11 Primary class. However, when he turned twelve in December, something changed in our relationship. Each Sunday, he was given the authority and power to help perform a symbolic atonement. In his white shirt, missionary haircut, and tie, he became a representation of the sacrament. When I turned twelve four months later, I was merely moved to a different Sunday School class. Because my friend—whom I had studied math, played soccer, and watched endless Disney movies with—suddenly was given a new authority that I could never have, our friendship changed. Before I knew about the words for “inequality,” I knew what it could mean in my life. The power to hold a tray symbolized something so much more than walking up and down an aisle.
Now, as a seventeen-year-old, I know the words. My first life experience with inequality and not being able to do something “because I’m a girl” was in my church. I don’t think things should be this way. When I look at my Savior—who is so much more than the represented bread and water we partake of each week—I see someone who showed what true, equal love looks like, and I do not think that His church is where I should have learned about inequality for the first time.
I promise I can balance a tray. As a twelve-year-old, all I wanted to do was go to Young Women’s and talk about Jesus. My childhood faith was unscarred by knowledge of words and the pain of history. And when I walked up and down the small aisle between folding chairs, all I wanted to do was serve. Girls can balance trays too. We can serve in the same ways our male peers can. When it comes to being a servant of our Heavenly Parents, there should be nothing that a girl cannot do.
I was happy to have the opportunity to participate in this photo-illustration for Ordain Women. For me, this photo represents so much of what I love about the LDS church: peace in my faith traditions, joy in Christ’s teachings of love and inclusion, eternal perspective, a stronger sense of my divine nature, and the possibility of further light and knowledge from my Heavenly Parents.
I hope that my sons will remember what this moment felt like, and I hope that the memory will help them think of me as a spiritual leader, capable of having a personal and direct relationship with God. It is because of my faith, and not in spite of it, that I am seeking change with Ordain Women. Ordain Women has given me a place to voice my heartfelt questions, my deepest hurts, and my desires born of faith.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future
Cally Stephens, the author of this post, is on the Social Media Committee of Ordain Women.
Sean Carter, the author of this post, is in OW leadership. Read his profile here.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King said these words to remind us that we must always be concerned about the condition of the “other.” And not just to satisfy the lofty ideal of equality, but for the very practical reason that we are all inextricably linked in a web of mutuality. As a result, while the shackles of political and economic deprivation were placed directly on the limbs of black Americans during King’s day, they restricted the freedom and prosperity of ALL Americans.
It is this realization that causes me to struggle against the patriarchy that exists today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At present, my beloved church restricts the office of the priesthood to worthy males. In doing so, it lessens the power of the priesthood for us all, as we are deprived of the administrative, healing and prophetic gifts of our sisters. And as a result, the work to which we have been ordained is being fettered by the chains of gender inequality.
I’ll never forget the day I–pregnant and full of hope–asked my bishop if I could just hold my baby for her naming and blessing ceremony as she’s presented to our congregation. I wept all day when he told me no. Two months later, after I held her for the first time in my arms, I dreamed of what it would have been like to participate with my husband in a day so important in LDS ritual to my Rosie’s life and ours.
In this spirit of hope and reverence we are pleased to release the first set in new Photo Illustration Series: Visualize Our Potential. These illustrations recently received national media attention, but they have long been in the pipeline–we have been planning them for over a year, originally intended as a flipchart to accompany OW’s Conversation Five: Visualize Our Potential. However, when we were writing this 5th Conversation, Kate received notice of her disciplinary court, and so the project was put on temporary hold. We hope that this flipchart, along with the accompanying activities such as the River of Life, will further the conversation on women and the priesthood. And as we learned in Conversation Two: Know Our History, blessings were an integral part of women’s ritual in our early Church days. More illustrations in this series will be released to our site in the upcoming days/weeks, so please stay tuned! We will also be using these photos in future blog posts, videos on our youtube channel, and will create an OW Tumblr of illustrations.
In compliance with current church policy, no actual ordinances took place in the making of these photo illustrations. All models are Mormons who respect LDS ritual. Their purpose is to visualize the day when women are ordained.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future
Kristy Money, the author of this post, is an Executive Board Member of Ordain Women.
John has a profile on the Ordain Women site, but even prior to posting his profile John helped support and nurture Ordain Women. In fact, before Ordain Women was even an entity and was just an idea in my head, I called up John. He was immediately very supportive of the idea and helped me connect to several other people in the community who turned out to be instrumental in the movement. John Dehlin has been one of Ordain Women’s truest allies from its start.
Even in those early days, John expressed concerns over church discipline, something he wanted to avoid, first and foremost, for the sake of his family. However, in the recent New York Times article he said,
I would prefer for them to leave me alone, but if given the choice between denying my conscience and facing excommunication, I’d much rather be excommunicated.
This type of courage and unwavering conviction in the face of punishment is inspiring. It is in these trying times we find out what true integrity really is. I hope and pray that John’s leaders do the right thing, by choosing ‘no action’ and sending the message that there is a place for all in the Church. Indeed, there is room even for those with legitimate questions and concerns.
In this difficult time my heart aches for, and support goes out to, the Dehlin family. I know his wife and wonderful children and think they will benefit from our collective thoughts and prayers. Please deliver messages of support, but be careful to respect their privacy. Being in such a direct spotlight at such a personally exhausting time can be hard.
I know the excruciatingly painful road John is facing, perhaps more intimately than almost any other person can. Rejection from your faith community is agonizing, no matter how deeply held your convictions are. Excommunication is particularly heartbreaking when the negative effects will be felt not only by you and your family, but by an entire worldwide community reeling in pain. I support John as he navigates this process, and stand by him as a friend.
As an organization Ordain Women stands in solidarity with John Dehlin while he faces excommunication, as he has long been a staunch ally to and supporter of women seeking priesthood ordination.
The author of this post is Kate Kelly, founder & Action Committee Chair of Ordain Women.
I remember my first calling. I was going to be the Beehive Secretary and I was incredibly excited. In my eyes, this was a chance to serve my friends and to help my leaders. But more than that, a calling was a signal to my ward that I was truly part of our faith community. I enjoyed the same feeling of full fellowship when I held my first temple recommend in my hand. It was a physical symbol of how hard I had worked to gain a testimony and be worthy to enter the House of the Lord.
Every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can appreciate these moments. We are told that callings are a privilege and a chance to serve others as we grow in the gospel. And we are often reminded that we should always have a current temple recommend, even if we are too far from a temple to attend. These are the symbols of our faith. Recognizing their cultural importance, one can only imagine the pain and damage caused by instances of informal discipline in our Church, where members are threatened with the loss of one or both of these symbols.
While many of us understand the fear of disfellowship or excommunication, we are learning that informal discipline can be just as painful. Where formal discipline follows a set of established rules and comes with a sense of finality, informal discipline is arbitrary and ambiguous. There are no rules laid out in the Church Handbook of Instruction for removing a person from a calling as a Sunday school instructor because of anonymous complaints about the teacher’s Facebook posts. A woman has no timeline for being asked to be a Relief Society teacher again when she was released because she has a profile at www.OrdainWomen.org. And few of us have the wherewithal or presence of mind to push back when we are asked additional questions—questions not listed in the Church Handbook of Instruction—in the course of a temple recommend interview. Members are placed in the position of having to choose between their public support of women’s ordination and the ability to participate in or even attend the temple wedding of a family member. In fact, this absence of rules leaves individual members at the mercy and whim of their local leaders.
I want to stress that of the more than 600 men and women who have submitted profiles, barely 20 have experienced this sort of informal discipline; in fact, many members who support women’s ordination serve in presidencies, as teachers, and more. But the time has come to speak openly about it. When an individual loses a calling or recommend as a result of support for the ordination of women, at first she feels shock. She thinks “Surely, my bishop has made a mistake; he knows me! He has heard my testimony and seen my service! I just need to talk to him.” But after one or two failed attempts to explain her heart, the shock wears off and she recognizes it for what it actually is: informal discipline is a public punishment. It is a scarlet A that she will wear every week. It is a way to brand a member as a threat, to tell the people with whom she worships that she is not their sister. Or worse, it is a warning to others that they must remain quiet and distant or they will suffer her same fate.
For most supporters of Ordain Women, the discipline is a faint shadow. In truth, over the last two years, I have been pleasantly surprised by stories of local leaders who have listened carefully to women as they discussed the question of gender inequality in our Church. Most bishops and stake presidents not only welcome the participation of the women in their congregations who are questioning gender inequality in the Church, but they also listen. The faith and humility of these leaders should be an example to others. They have remembered the new commandment, given by the Savior, that we love one another, as He has loved us. When our leaders act out of love, they need not fear us nor we them.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future
Debra Jenson, the author of this post, is the 2015 Chairperson on the Executive Board of Ordain Women.
Ordain Women is pleased to announce the release of our newest video series in which we explore, based on scriptural and historical evidence on the most important question in women’s ordination, “What is God’s will?” Part 1 condenses the information from OW’s Conversations One and Two. Our second video, Part 2, focuses on Conversation Three, particularly the fundamentals of Mormon Doctrine that support gender equality. The final video, Part 3, in our series focuses on why priesthood is necessary to eternal progression from information contained in Conversations Four, Five and Six.
In creating this content we present compelling arguments all from official church sources that are accessible in 5 minute videos. These can be consumed in a different way than reading the Conversation packets. For further information you can view and download the entire conversation series here. There are also video links to OW leaders discussing each one of them individually live on our YouTube channel.
The glory of God is intelligence, and we have learned since our Primary days it is up to each of us to discern God’s will for us personally and use moral agency to act on principles of righteousness–to do what is right, let the consequence follow. We wish all the best of luck on this very personal journey.
Pastels and primary colors mix, mingle, and collide in our crowded toy room. Intricate villages combine blocks and Barbies, and it’s difficult to determine where Pet Shop animals end and Match Box cars begin. Boys rock baby dolls to sleep, and girls crash down towers with monster trucks. Imagination is celebrated and play prioritized, with little regard for real world norms and expectations.
In this world, personalities collide in battles of wills. The oldest expects to create and control the game by default. Her younger brothers resist, but often go along with her intricate plans. Their complex world is increasingly influenced by what they read, hear, and see, yet their genders rarely create limitations for who they can be or what they can do. Their ability to take in what they like and leave out the rest delights me.
My daughter especially refuses to be pink-washed. She embraces fairies, ponies, and princesses, but bemoans their limitations. She reads daring adventures and wonders why the protagonist is almost always a boy. She watches a show with an ensemble cast, inevitably asking, “Why is there always just one girl?”
My eldest son is a born nurturer. His newest baby brother won over his six year-old heart three months ago. He wakes up in the morning seeking out the baby to hold his tiny hand, rushes to his side each time he cries, and finds him for a smile first thing after school. I dread all of the little ways he’ll learn to be cautious about these feelings as he ages, masking them in “masculinity” and praising nurturing as inherent to womanhood.
My daughter rejects the notion that being a girl is anything less or limiting in any way. I revisit the frustrations I felt as a girl through her struggles and listen as she asks hard questions and rages at the inequality in the world.
Her younger brothers are less concerned by these issues, influenced by both age and the excitement of seeing themselves in the hero. They are not aware of otherness until their sister points it out. Yet, they resist stereotyping in their own subtle ways; most notably choosing to be a female character in a video game or during movie role playing.
If my children approach the future from the perspective of their playroom, they’ll brave the world side by side. The idea of excluding one from an activity based on gender will seem absurd. The concept of dividing responsibilities into “girl” and “boy” categories will confuse them. Each new milestone will be open to everyone, requiring special skills only determined by personality and experience.
They will begin to leave the toy room behind in the years to come, my daughter exiting first. She is already pushing back against gender messages in some ways and internalizing them in others. When she wonders why the hero is almost always a boy, I encourage her to reimagine the story with a female protagonist. When the roles for women in a history book, video game, or movie disappoint, I suggest she rewrite them. I hope these are transferable skills, practice for the dedication and determination required to make similar changes in the real world.
I want my sons to be engaged in this process alongside their sister; resisting the complacency and ambivalence so easy to adopt in adulthood. I envision them as men who do not simply acknowledge inequality or limiting gender roles, but who seek to create revisions as well; recognizing how reimagining the same old story creates a better world for everyone.
Honoring our past, envisioning our future
Mindy, the author of this post, has a profile on Ordain Women.
As Chair of the Executive Board, I am happy to announce that Ordain Women, thanks to the hard work of some of our fantastic friends, has applied for and been granted 501(c)(3) status. I believe this will allow us greater flexibility in planning actions and will also give individuals a new way to participate—by making a tax-deductible donation via the PayPal link below (email is firstname.lastname@example.org). As is the case with all we do, our goal in becoming a non-profit entity is to engage in faithful action to help further the conversation about the role of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.