In my three years involved with Ordain Women, one of the greatest gifts is that I have met many wonderful people. I have made friends who mean enough to me that today I cannot imagine my life without them. They have challenged my thinking, taught me bravery, and inspired me with their faith. It has been a blessing.
As I count these blessings, one of those I cherish most is Bryndis Roberts. She and I have worked together on the Ordain Women board for more than a year and in that time, she has shown patience, love, and grace. I can always count on her to take time to work through a problem. I have never doubted her faith and devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the children of our Heavenly Parents. And she has generously given her wisdom, insight, and support.
For these reasons and countless more, I am so pleased to see her take the helm as chair of the executive board for Ordain Women. After 18 months serving in this position, I can testify that it is demanding and heartbreaking, inspiring and exhausting. I have no doubt that Bryndis will rise to the challenge. And that she will then rise above it.
Please take a moment to meet Bryndis and then send a prayer to our Heavenly Parents on her behalf as she embarks on this new journey!
Bryndis Roberts is a proud alumna of Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia, the oldest college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women.
She was raised in the Black Baptist faith tradition and joined the LDS Church in January 2008. She has served as a Family History Consultant, Relief Society Teacher, Relief Society Second Counselor, Relief Society President, and Ward Welfare Specialist.
She is an attorney and has her own firm – Jenkins & Roberts LLC – where her law partner is her ex-husband, William Jenkins, who also happens to be her best friend. She is the mother of two strong, intelligent, and beautiful daughters, Jennifer Jenkins and Jessica Fay.
She is a lifelong Democrat and gladly accepts the labels of liberal and/or progressive. She is an active and vocal champion of voting rights and women’s reproductive freedom.
She is passionately interested in genealogy and her favorite vacation spots are any locations where there are lighthouses.
She joined the Ordain Women Executive Board in the fall of 2014. As she wrote in her profile: “As important as the work is, [she] cannot believe that it is the divine will that so many workers are not allowed to participate, fully and equally.”
We were spiritually prepared:
In addition to our individual prayers and meditations, we came together for a devotional in which we sang inspirational songs and invoked the presence of the Spirit.
We were physically prepared:
We had water to stay hydrated. We scheduled times for lunch breaks. We had chairs for those who needed to rest for a few minutes. We had umbrellas to shield us from the sun and coats to keep us warm.
We were respectful:
We approached the building politely and in a very orderly fashion. We remained in the area where our permit from Salt Lake City allowed us to be. We did not obstruct traffic on the sidewalk. We did not create a disturbance. We did not leave any litter or damage any flowers or greenery.
YET, WE WERE STILL REJECTED!
On Friday, April 1, we began the in-person portion of the #ReadytoWitness campaign with a devotional at City Creek Park. After the devotional, we walked the short distance from City Creek Park to the Church Administration Building.
We then made our first attempt to deliver the cards and letters (Click HERE to see the video). We mounted the steps of the Church Administration Building with feelings of trepidation, hope, and even a little fear. We were not allowed beyond the foyer and Debra Jenson, our Board Chair, who was our spokesperson, was told, over the white telephone that is used to speak to the security desk, that the Church does not accept hand delivery of packages. When she replied that we did not have a package but we had cards and letters, she was told that we would have to mail them. She told them we would be outside (right in front of the building) until 5:00 p.m. in case a Church leader or an authorized assistant was willing to accept our cards and letters.
We stayed outside the building until after 5:00 p.m. on April 1. Despite the fact that all of the windows were covered by blinds and/or curtains, we could tell that there were people inside. At several points, people actually looked through the blinds or around the curtains at us, but no one came out to speak to us or to accept our cards and letters. We watched, in amazement, as several General and Area Authorities mounted the steps to the Church Administration Building, entered the foyer, used the security phone, and were not allowed to enter. Apparently, our leaders decided that since they did not intend to allow us to enter the building, it would look better if they did not allow anyone to enter the building (at least not through the front door).
We were back in front of the building by 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, and stayed there until after 5:00 p.m. We did the same thing on Sunday, April 3. Again, there were people in the building. Again, some of them looked through the blinds or around the curtains at us. However, no one came out to speak to us or to accept our cards and letters and, again, Church officials who clearly expected to be able to enter the building were routed to other entrances.
We then returned on Monday, April 4, and made another attempt to enter the Church Administration Building and deliver the cards and letters (Click HERE to see the video). On that attempt I, in my role as Board Chair-elect, was the spokesperson, only to be told the same thing that had been told to us on Friday. We then tried to deliver the cards and letters to the Relief Society Building, where it seemed as though we would be allowed to meet with one of the assistants to a member of the Relief Society General Presidency, at least up until the moment we told her we were with Ordain Women.
BUT, THAT REJECTION WAS NOT THE END OF THE STORY!
As we stood outside the Church Administration Building over a three day period, we had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of our fellow Mormons who were attending General Conference and a large number of non-Mormons who either visiting Salt Lake City or going about their daily routines. We collected more cards and letters to add to our notebook. We talked with people who were supportive of our efforts and we talked with people who were not so supportive of our efforts. We handed out water bottles and we passed out treats.
While there were people who viewed us with disdain and dislike, we could see in the faces of other people that we were dispelling some of the misconceptions that they had about who we were and our feelings towards the LDS Church and Church leaders. Over and over again, we were asked if we were Mormons and when we replied in the affirmative, we saw looks of surprise on the faces of those who had asked the question.
We were blessed with tender mercies in the form of people who returned our greetings with the same love and kindness with which we extended them. Moreover, at every point when we were feeling discouraged there was always someone who stopped or turned around and came back to give us encouraging words and (more often than not) to take some of our buttons, pins, and bracelets, etc.
Because our Church leaders would not accept the cards and letters from us, we had the originals delivered to the First Presidency via Federal Express. We had copies delivered to the Relief Society General Presidency, the Presiding Bishopric, and the registered agent for service for the Corporation of The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also via Federal Express. We have received confirmation that those deliveries were made Thursday, April 7th.
To all of the women, men, girls, and boys who shared your stories with us, we say thank you for sharing and for entrusting us with your personal and precious testimonies. As we wrote in our letter in the Salt Lake Tribune:
It is our fervent hope and prayer that [the] messages [in the cards and letters] will be in the minds of our church leaders as they pray and seek revelation about ordaining women to the priesthood in the LDS Church.
Working on the Ordain Women board is a privilege and challenge. I have been honored to work with amazing people. Some left way too early for my selfish liking, because I was not done learning from and getting to know them, but it was the right time for them. I am grateful for every person I have worked with and am sad to say goodbye, most recently, to Gina Colvin and Sean Carter. But the time commitment is real, the stress is real, and the personal sacrifice is all too real. I admire people for agreeing to serve; and I admire people even more for recognizing and acting when it is the right time to step aside. Ordain Women will continue to grow and evolve over time and to adjust to the needs of the organization. With that, we are looking forward to the future and are proud to announce the addition of three new Executive Board Members. Natasha Smith, Julia Murphy and Leah Marie Pickren Silverman.
Natasha Smith works as a paralegal in Hawaii by day and advocates for religious equality by night. She has worked tirelessly on our Intersectionality Committee and is also a blogger at FEMWOC.com. Natasha is passionate and considerate and am honored she has decided to join our team. Take a minute to read her profile here.
Julia Murphy is a behavioral health therapist and a baker as well as a strong feminist. She lives in Germany with her life partner and blogs at The Sugary Shrink. Julia will be taking over as our International Committee Chair and brings with her passion, perspective and much needed humor. You can read more of her amazing story here.
Leah Marie Pickren Silverman studies Public Administration and is raising 3 boys in Virginia. She has been an invaluable member of the OW leadership team for over 2 years and we appreciate her perspective. She is a Co-Chair of the Social Media Committee and is passionate about making Mormonism better for everyone. Leah Marie’s profile can be read here.
Honoring our Past,
Envisioning our Future.
Joanna Wallace, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board as Co-Chair of the Social Media Committee.
The recent essays on Heavenly Mother and Women and the Priesthood reveal a much more complicated and nuanced history for women and authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than has previously been offered by the Church. We are pleased to see our leaders engaging with these important topics, but recognize that there are still many unanswered questions. We look forward to future revelations regarding Heavenly Mother and the ordination of women.
We long for more information about our Heavenly Mother and greater gender inclusivity in our worship. She is a divine model we seek to emulate and we hope for a future reunion. While temple blessings promise future access to priesthood for women, we are concerned that barring women from ordination denies them full opportunity to prepare for future responsibilities.
Most importantly, the historical context of priesthood must inform but cannot limit present day conversations. We have seen the continual expansion of priesthood authority and access since the apostles of Jesus Christ began carrying His message forward. That expansion has brought about a great and marvelous work – the growth of the church and spread of the gospel. LDS concepts of priesthood and divinity were decades in development, with definitions, roles, practices, and cosmologies all evolving as the Saints practiced their faith and sought greater knowledge from God. Imagine what could happen were we to extend this power and authority to all women of the church. All we need to do is ask.
Honoring our Past,
Envisioning our Future.
Ordain Women has been displaying the “Keys Sculpture” interactive art project throughout the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City October 15 – 19, 2015 12:15 p.m as people of all religions participate by putting on their own keys and join us in the vision that Women deserve Religious Equality.
Join us today at 12:30 MST at the Parliament of World Religions. A panel of two Ordain Women Board members, Lorie Winder Stromberg and Mark Barnes, and the Artist who designed the sculpture, Ginny Huo, will discuss the design and symbolism behind the this interactive sculpture. The panel will also discuss Ordain Women more generally, and answer any questions. The panel presentation will be located near the registration area. Enter through the south doors of the Salt Palace, which is located at 100 South West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT.
Honoring our Past,
Envisioning our Future.
Ordain Women is deeply disappointed in the decision to excommunicate our friend and supporter, John Dehlin, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have the utmost respect for John’s effort to create a space for church members with thoughtful questions and believe that his presence is a strength and help to our faith community. Debra Jenson, Ordain Women Executive Board Chair said, “We continue to be disconcerted by what appears to be an effort to silence members of the Mormon Church for asking questions and confronting difficult aspects of our faith. Our thoughts and prayers are with our brother, John, his wife Margi and his children, as well as the thousands of Mormons around the world who will be heartbroken to hear this news.” We look forward to a day when all members can speak freely about questions and concerns and we will continue to work toward that end.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Today the First Presidency issued a statement that the General Women’s meeting will henceforth be a session of Conference. We are pleased by continuous positive change and hope for greater changes to come.
Watch the video here, which aired on June 13, 2014. ABC interviews Kate Kelly and John Dehlin on their recent Church Disciplinary summons and threat of excommunication for faithful activism.
On June 12, Buzzfeed reported on Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly and Ordain Women supporter John Dehlin’s threats of excommunication and what this means for Church Public Affairs in their feature, “The Mormon Moment is Finally (Really) Over.”
Read the full article here.
Kate Kelly, a founder of Ordain Women, is interviewed and featured in the New York Times this week for hearing from local Church leaders that she is summoned for a disciplinary council. John Dehlin, a psychologist and founder of Mormon Stories, who is also a supporter of Ordain Women, has also been summoned. Read John’s profile here.
Lauri Goodstein, co-author of the March New York Times article highlighting Ordain Women, reported on June 11:
“I’m just really, really, really heartbroken,” Ms. Kelly said.
She said she told the stake president and bishop, “What you’re asking me to do is to live inauthentically, and that’s not something I’m willing to do.”
Read the full article here.