I heard about the October 5, 2013 Priesthood Session action months ago, and my first reaction was one of trepidation. My entire adult life I have firmly believed that women would one day be ordained to the Priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I used to discuss this doctrine with my dad and remember him explaining that there was no more scriptural justification for denying women the Priesthood than there had been for denying black men the priesthood before 1978. However, in all that time I had never publicly expressed that view.
So, going to Conference and asking to be admitted to the Priesthood Session was a big step for me. While I firmly believed in our right to ask questions of our leaders and to request that they seek inspiration, demanding change was not the way we did things in the LDS Church. I wasn’t at all sure this action would be seen as the former and not the latter.
But as the details emerged, it was clear that the organizers and I were on the same page in regard to how this event should happen. They inspired confidence in their leadership, and I began to believe, not only that something great would happen on the 5th of October in Salt Lake, but that I would regret it if I didn’t take the chance to be part of it. The flight, fare and schedule I had been eyeing for weeks was still available, enabling me to fly out of my small town in Mississippi without paying a premium, so I bought a ticket.
While I was cautious about the people inside the LDS Church with whom I shared my plans, I found a lot of support from friends who are not part of the LDS Church. They sent many messages of support, which I greatly appreciated. And I continued to get private messages from other LDS Church members, who expressed their support or, at least, their understanding if they didn’t necessarily agree with my position.
When Friday came, I was suddenly very nervous. There’s a big difference between posting something on the internet and getting yourself on a plane – all alone – and going to a park where others have promised to meet you. I knelt to pray before I left home that day, and the only words that came out were, “This is hard.” Yet, as I expressed my willingness to do it, I could feel the love and support of both my Heavenly Parents. It was as if the message was that the time had to come to do what I had promised to do. This wasn’t the first time I had gotten the impression that I was put on Earth specifically at this time for a reason. My emotions were very close to the surface the whole day and all through my first flight. Though I was alone, now I didn’t feel at all alone.
When I sat down to wait on my connecting flight, I started talking with the couple next to me. We discovered that we were all LDS, and then they asked me why I was heading to SLC. I wasn’t ready to have that discussion in such a public place, where I could see others who were listening, so I simply said that I was going to view Conference. He asked if I had tickets, which I didn’t. I was sure that it all sounded very odd.
We got on the plane, and I discovered that the husband was sitting next to me with his wife in the row in front. He was easy to talk to, and we spent most of the 4-hour flight in conversation. We discussed church and jobs, and I found that he had worked on all of the wood molding in the Conference Center. At the end of our flight, I decided to tell him just why I was going to SLC. His response was completely positive. He wished me well and said he hoped we would be allowed to enter the building for the session.
I had at one time believed that might happen, but by the time it was my turn to ask if we could enter the session, there was no doubt what the answer would be. I told the gentleman there I had come from Mississippi to attend this meeting. He expressed sincere regret that a trip of that length would be in vain and reminded me that I could watch the meeting online. After that, I enjoyed some great fellowship with sisters who had come from far and wide for this event. I hated leaving, yet I knew I had done what I came to do. I arrived at home just in time for the Sunday morning session.
Something great did happen on October 5th in Salt Lake City, and I was there. Women expressed a desire to be included in the male-only Priesthood. We were not loud, belligerent or irreverent. I suspect that was unexpected by those who met us on Temple Square. The images of us watching men and boys walk in instead of us and of each of us asking for permission to enter are powerful. They bring tears to my eyes. So many women had so much hope that it would be different. While we were met, mostly, with respect and care, the fact that the official Church statement said that our group was divisive was disappointing, especially given the talk by Elder Uchtdorf earlier that day explicitly inviting those with doubts and concerns to be part of the Church and stating that inquiry is appropriate.
I am very glad I went. Being with this group of women buoyed my spirit and gave me hope for the future. I don’t know if there will be any acceleration in the changes the Church is making to put women on a more equal footing with men in terms of authority in the Church, but for the first time ever, there are public conversations happening about the issue of ordination for women, and it’s no longer quite so difficult for me to stand up in public and say that I think it should happen.