My heart is full, but it is also broken.
I suppose I didn’t realize until I was at the door and physically barred from entering the Tabernacle just how hopeful I was that we would indeed get in. I told the man who blocked us from entering, “I understand that all men, even men who are not members of the church and have no investment in Mormonism are permitted to attend. I am a returned missionary and a faithful Mormon woman and I would like to listen to the prophet in person.”
He simply said, “this session is actually for men only.”
My heart broke.
In the lead up to the event I didn’t know just how deeply hurtful that experience of literally being cast out and left out in the cold while men and young boys passed us by would be. It felt like I was reaching out a hand of friendship, trust and hope to someone who callously slapped that hand away, smiling all the while.
Months ago when we first started planning to attend the Priesthood session some called me “delusional” to think that hundreds of women would show up to support us. I had faith in women, and that faith was well-rewarded as our sisters lined up the length of an entire city block to join us and knock at the doors of the Tabernacle. That overwhelming and wonderful support buoyed me up as we walked that long block down North Temple street to Temple Square. What a miracle it was to see all of these strong, determined and powerful women by my side. Women flew in from all corners of our country and around the world to stand with us. What a blessing it was to bear witness to our collective courage.
Some who walked with us doubted the church’s potential to respond to us in a positive way and include us in the meeting.
But in that moment at the door, facing that man, I realized I did not. I had no doubt in my mind that we would be let in. I walked to the Tabernacle filled with hope, faith and (perhaps delusional) optimism. I truly thought if they could see our sincerity and our tears and our pain, in person, they would respond to our faithful pleas with equal measures of love.
In a conversation after being turned away, church spokeswoman Ruth Todd she said to me, somewhat incredulously, “you didn’t really think you would get in, did you?” I said to her, “in all sincerity I did. After Elder Uchtdorf’s talk today I was filled with hope that if there was room for us in the church there would be room for us in the Conference Center.” Ruth Todd replied, “but just think of how wonderful it is that the session is now broadcast and how many people did not have access to it before.”
But, somehow, after my hopes were dashed in such a visceral and personal way, listening to the session in the park on a cell phone in the cold did not seem like much of a consolation in that moment.
I am still processing yesterday’s events, but I know that this mix of sweetest joy and abject sorrow will carry us to the next stage in our journey as women seeking ordination. After yesterday’s events, one thing remains certain: as instructed in the scriptures, we will continue to ask and seek and knock. Our hearts will mend, and we will continue with the hope and faith that the hearts of our leaders will be softened.